Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blogging in Twenty {eleven}

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A year in quilts...

Can you believe how quickly this year has flown by?  I can't until I browse through the archives of my blog for 2010 and then time seems to slow down a bit... something I love about having a blog because it documents my busy-ness in organized freeze frames.

I get a lot of questions about starting a blog, blogging, and growing a blog so I thought I'd make a list.  Now, I'm definitely not a pro; I've been blogging a little over a year and I'm certainly not a "big" blogger but I can share the top 10 things I have learned and what I like to see in a blog...
  1. Write.  Write.  And then write some more.  Develop your writing style until it feels like a conversation you would enjoy having with a friend.
  2. Post often and consistently.  Some of the early blogs I enjoyed reading stopped posting often and my interest waned.  Readers want to feel like they are a part of your day to day process.  I didn't want to be a fickle reader but that's what I am... a reader who wants to read fresh content.
  3. Aesthetically speaking; keep your blog clean.  My eyes are drawn to clean lines and well organized blogs.  Try not to clutter your blog with a ton of lists, badges, links, etc.  Try using tabs or free standing pages to organize; this made my blogging life so much easier.
  4. Tutorials!  Share a tutorial.  Not only does it show off your creativity, it also gives back to your readers.  We are all busy so every moment someone spends reading your blog is an investment of their time.  Pay them a dividend for their loyalty.
  5. Take good pictures.  This is probably the hardest part of blogging for me and it's still a work in progress.  It almost goes without saying... good pictures draw people in.
  6. Make your blog search-able.  Use good titles for your blog posts and relevant tags.  Search engines like blogs who label properly. :)
  7. Be a good blogging friend.  Leave comments on other blogs and follow other blogs.  Link to other blogs in your posts; I love stumbling on new blogs through posts.
  8. Be real.  If you feel bad, just say so.  If you are happy, share that too!  I might be a bit too candid at times but I'd rather feel that way than feel like I'm faking it.
  9. Be honest.  If you are burnt out, take a break.  Don't feel like you have to cram your blog full of posts just for the sake of posting.  However, if you can, let your readers know you are taking some time for yourself.  They will appreciate that you are human. ;)
  10. Have fun.  Don't be afraid to embarrass yourself  i.e. sweaty ballsFunny is almost always better than perfect!
And #11... thank your readers.  Thank you all for a wonderful and fun year!  Here's to an inspired and even more creative 2011!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Door # 2

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Yes... I'll take what's behind Door # 2. 

What's behind Door # 2?? 

A new sewing studio!!!  {insert wild household applause}

Things will be quiet around here for a few days as I pack up and move upstairs into my new space.  As you can tell from the picture, I'm soooooo excited!!

I hope ya'll had a wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

{Resolution}

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The ghost of Christmas sewing
Phew!  My Christmas sewing is done... and my sewing room reflects it.  I have a crochet project left to finish but that hardly counts because it is so relaxing to do in the evenings while watching TV with the family.

Is it too early to make New Year's Resolutions?  I'm typically not the type to make a big deal out of them but there are a few things I have been craving lately...

{order}  the picture above should explain that one just fine

{space}  my sewing room is bursting at the seams; hence the yards of linen under the Christmas tree.  Really?

{time}  my time is so limited.  I like to say that I multi-task but it's not always viewed like that by others ;)

{home}  it rarely feels like we are home enough

{personalization}  I create so much for others that our own home lacks a personal decorating touch

{identity}  creatively, who am I?  Quilter, blogger, pattern designer, Flickr-er, swapper, bee member, Etsian

So, I'm going to take the next several days to reflect on a few of these things and of course Christmas and its true meaning. 

I have been truly inspired, encouraged, and I am thankful for all the friends I have made here over the past year.  If I don't talk to ya'll again before Christmas, have a wonderful Christmas with your family and loved ones!

Jennifer :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pssst... Fabric {sale}

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Fabric swatch from FreeSpirit
Just in case you are still wondering what to ask Santa for... Fabric.com is having a big sale on all things Anna Maria Horner!  It's today only so hurry!

I have a new pattern design and the fabrics I'm using are her voiles so guess what I just did?  Yep, rounded out my voile collection with some of her new Innocent Crush voiles.

I'm a little nervous about sewing with voile.  What has your experience been working with this fabric?  Any tips??

I am almost done with my Christmas sewing and I cannot wait to get back to my projects that I have been dying to start... :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Unmentionable Ornaments

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Our first Christmas in our new house was memorable for lots of reasons.  Chaney had just turned three and after all we had been through, I was so thankful to have a wonderful husband, a home of our own and a fresh start to make new and happy memories.  Apparently Chaney was excited to make some memories too when she decorated our tree with a little extra.

I was folding laundry on the coffee table and went in the bedroom to put clothes away.  Chaney was happily playing by the tree when something caught her eye on the coffee table and she quietly went to work.

A few minutes later she came running into me saying, "come look mama!"... words we often hear and cringe to as parents.  "I decorated the tree!"  Oh.  Dear.

I'm picturing the tree laying on its side or ornaments broken on the floor but as I walked around the corner I saw her masterpiece.  My ... ummm... colorful undergarments were hung carefully and strategically on the bottom three feet of the tree.  Of course I took a picture but I can't bring myself to put that pic here because hey, a girl has to have her limits. ;)

Chaney gave a whole new meaning to "the stockings were hung with care..." that year and it is still one of my favorite Christmas memories.

Thanks to everyone who share pictures of their special Christmas trees.  The link sharing is still open so please feel free to share; it's been fun seeing everyones traditions and trees!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Christmas Parade!

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I love a good Christmas tree.  Don't you?   Themed trees are awesome and creative but I really enjoy the "homemade" trees the most; the ones that are a collection of ornaments... handmade ornaments... kid-crafted ornaments... special ornaments... vintage ornaments... they all tell a story.

We have a homemade tree but I still enjoy adding a creative touch with a tree topper...

Handmade angels sing on our stairs...

I look forward every year to seeing what Chaney is going to want to leave out for Santa.  One year it was carrots, another year it was a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, and then on rare occasion she follows tradition with cookies & milk.

And then there's the chic Charlie Brown tree with disco ball ornaments... Chaney definitely has the creative gene. :)

What is your favorite tradition?  I'd love to hear about it and I would be thrilled to see your tree!  So don't be shy... link up and share!



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

City Stops

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I'm just a little excited to be able to share my City Stops quilt over at the Moda Bakeshop today!  This is my first project {and definitely not my last} for Moda and I had so much fun working with the City Weekend fabric line.  The fabrics are definitely brighter than I initially thought and they just sing a perfect mix of urban + shabby chic.


A few details I didn't share over there... I quilted the outline of the hexagons in a grid pattern that ended up looking a lot like a honeycomb.


I free motion quilted flowers in the border and this is my new favorite free motion pattern.  It's just like doodling with thread!  I'm planning on quilting my quilt along quilt with these flowers.


The binding was a bit tricky but nothing that a little patience can't work through.  The end result is very unique if you ask me...

Bless Steve's heart, I had him driving all over looking for the perfect place to take pictures of this quilt.  I think the dead end barrier is perfect even if a beer bottle might be seen in one of the pictures!  Can you find it??

If you get a chance, please go take a look at my tutorial!  And if you are here by way of the bakeshop, welcome!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cake {Balls}

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Chaney's 1st Birthday
Today is Chaney's 7th birthday! I cannot believe how fast seven years have flown by. It seems like just yesterday that I was a nervous, new mom. Chaney has certainly grown but I believe that I have grown even more... being a mom tends to do that to a person and I am grateful for each and every day I have had with her.

I'm not known as a cook or a baker but I am known for the cake balls I send for Chaney's birthday each year and an infamous email sent out last year to all the elementary teachers containing the recipe that may or may not have contained the phrase "your balls will sweat".  Sweaty balls... definitely not my brightest shining moment. ;)


I stayed up late making the cake balls and I thought I'd share the recipe with ya'll.  I make them bigger so they are like small cupcakes and perfect for sharing at school!  This is by no means an original recipe but this is how I make mine.   Here's what you need:
  • 1 box of cake mix
  • ingredients that the cake mix calls for {eggs, butter, oil, etc}
  • 1 jar of frosting
  • Confectioner's chocolate {I use Almond Bark}
  • Sprinkles
  • Truffle papers or mini cupcake papers
  1. Bake your cake according to the instructions
  2. Allow it to cool for a few minutes {it does not have to completely cool
  3. Cut the cake into cubes and place them in a mixing bowl
  4. With a fork, mash the cake cube into crumbs
  5. Mix the entire jar of frosting into the cake and stir well {the consistency will be similar to cookie dough}
  6. Spoon out the mixture, form into balls and place on a cookie sheet
  7. Refrigerate the balls for approx 45 minutes
  8. Melt your package of confectioner's chocolate according to the directions
  9. One ball at a time, put it into the bowl of melted chocolate and cover it well.  With a spoon, return it to the cookie sheet.
  10. While the chocolate is still melted, top with sprinkles if you would like
  11. Once the chocolate has hardened, place the balls in the papers
  12. Allow to cool completely before refrigerating or your balls will sweat...

Makes approximately 30 cake balls
Store in an air-tight container

There are all sorts of variations to try with your icing and cake flavors.  Chaney's favorite is yellow cake mix, vanilla frosting, and chocolate on the outside with pink sugar sprinkles {of course}.  I have had red velvet, strawberry, German chocolate... you can be really creative!

Thanks for letting me share my recipe!  I'll be sharing another recipe tomorrow on another site *hint hint*!

Friday, December 10, 2010

That Quilt Along {Week 6}

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1. Quilting in progress, 2. On the Road to Spring quilting, 3. Wonky 9 patch quilting, 4. Quilting in progress, 5. Hexagon Table Runner, 6. Woodgrain quilting


Welcome to week 6 of That Quilt Along... Quilting your quilt!

There are lots of ways to quilt a quilt so instead of trying to figure out a way to show you each technique myself, I thought I'd feature some great tutorials.

  • Free motion quilting - one of my favorites.  I learned from Randi and her quilt along.  Her pictures and instructions are fabulous!
  • Straight line quilting - a walking foot is a must.  Amy has a great tutorial and pictures...
  • Tying a quilt - very simple if you are afraid of machine quilting.  Angry Chicken has a great tutorial...
  • Stitch in the ditch - the Purl Bee has a great tutorial on this...
  • Grid layout - Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts demonstrates this beautifully!
  • Hand quilting with purl cotton - bigger stitches with beautiful thread make a big impact. Anna Maria Horner has probably the prettiest tutorial I have seen...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gratification {Instant}

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Steve and I had a long conversation last night about my creative process and unfortunately I'm not feeling much better after our talk.  Not his fault, BTW... 

We live in a society of instant gratification where speed is cherished over quality.  The give-it-to-me-now sort of impatience leaves the artist, or quilter in this case, pulled in 20 different directions trying to please anyone and everyone while pouring every bit of themselves into the final product with very little left in the end because of the stress of the process.

I'm not talking about one thing or another in particular; it's just the way that the handmade process is treated in general terms.  Why are you so messy... scattered... slow... busy...?  I wish those questions could transform into statements of  you are so creative... interesting... talented... diverse...!

Sure, much of what we make can be {and is} manufactured overseas for pennies paid to the workers. But does a great monetary deal and/or instant gratification make the quilter or the artist less valuable to those who we create for? 

Sometimes it sure seems like that is the case.  And that is sad.  And frustrating. 

I'm just one person.  I'm a wife, a mom, a friend, a family member, a full time employee, a pet owner, and an individual if there's anything leftover.  I'm not an assembly line.  I'm not just a finished quilt or a finished project.  So please tread gently.

Sorry for the bummer of a post but as I've said before, I want to be real here.  Thanks for listening. :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dear...

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...That Girl, I'm a new quilter...

This is my favorite kind of email to get.  I'm always excited to read that someone else has recently acquired the quilting bug and is head over heels about fabric and all of my favorite things. 

I get several of these emails every week and this morning I received one with pictures!  Rachel from Scotland is a brand new quilter, as in a few weeks old, and I'm really impressed with her work.  She read my quilt along posts and wasn't sure if she was ready to tackle a quilt so instead she made some mini wonky blocks into a place mat.  I love her idea and creativity!

Rachel doesn't have a blog or Flickr yet so I asked her if it would be OK to share her pictures here so we can all cheer her on.
 
Look at her wonky blocks!

...and the quilting...

...and the machine binding!

I told her that if she's doing this as a brand new quilter, she can certainly make a quilt.  Don't ya'll agree??

Welcome to the world of quilting, Rachel!  I know you will meet some fabulous quilting friends here in blogland... :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Basting Tutorial

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...no, not a turkey!  But hello to everyone who arrived here by Googling "basting" in hopes of learning how to baste your holiday turkey...

Anyways, there are two methods I use to baste a quilt: pins or basting spray.

I learned to baste using large safety pins but after reading all about basting spray I thought I'd give it a try.  I'm now almost completely converted to spray basting!   There is a lot less crawling around on your hands and knees; it's faster; and in my opinion it is a lot more precise meaning that there aren't puckers in your quilt back after quilting.

But I'll show you both methods and let you pick the one you like the best...

Pin Basting

To baste using pins here's what you need:
  • batting {make sure it measures about 4" larger than your quilt top on all sides}
  • basting pins {these are basically large, curved safety pins} or large safety pins 
  • quilt back {make sure it measures about 4" larger than your quilt top on all sides}
  • masking tape {you will use this to tape your backing to the floor}
Find a large area big enough to spread your quilt out.  A lot of people do this on hardwood floors or some other hard surface like a dining room table.  I don't have a table big enough and it kills my knees to crawl around on hard surfaces so I baste on carpet.  It works fine for me as long as I don't pin the quilt to the carpet... I may or may not have done that a time or two. ;)


Start by making sure your quilt back and your quilt top are pressed and free of wrinkles.  Next, lay the backing on the floor wrong side facing up.  Tape one corner and then work your way around the edges taping your backing to the floor nice and tight.


Now, get your batting out and unroll it over your quilt back. 

*A word about batting: I use Warm & Natural or organic bamboo batting.  The biggest things you want to avoid when buying batting are the words 100% polyester and high loft.  High loft polyester will work it's way out of your quilt over time and will make a nasty mess on your quilt.  If you want an antique looking quilt that crinkles wonderfully after washing, stick with a low loft cotton, bamboo or cotton/poly blend.*

Sorry about the blurry picture!
Smooth out your batting over the quilt back until there are no wrinkles.  Once it looks good to you, lay your quilt top with the right side facing up and again smooth it out until there are no wrinkles.  You are now ready to start pinning!

There are two schools of thought about where to start pinning.  Some quilters pin from the center of the quilt out and some start from one edge and work to the opposite edge of the quilt.  I've done both and I can't find a big difference; I think it comes down to how well you do the first 3 steps and what you are comfortable with.  In this tutorial I will be pinning from one end and will move towards the other.


Start pinning how you prefer and pin every 4"-6".  It's tedious to pin closer together but you will be saving yourself a lot of headaches later i.e a puckered backing.  Pin until you can't pin anymore and then you will have yourself a quilt sandwich!


Trim down the backing and batting if there is excess; this will make moving the quilt through your machine easier.

Spray Basting

*I use June Tailor spray or Dritz spray.  Make sure that the spray basting you buy will not interfere with machine quilting.  Follow the directions on the can when using the spray.*


To spray baste, lay your batting down on the floor first.  Smooth it out until there are no wrinkles. 


This is a good time to tell your dogs, kids and people sensitive to chemicals to leave the area.  Either do your spraying outdoors or in a really well ventilated area.  There will be a little over spray so I usually leave the backing and batting larger and then trim them down after I have finished basting.


 Next, lay your backing down right side up and smooth out the wrinkles. 


Then fold one side of the backing up towards the top of the batting and backing.   According to the directions on the can, spray the exposed batting.  Wait a minute or two and then pull the backing back down and into place.  Smooth out all the wrinkles... the nice thing about spray batting is that you can lift the fabric up again and re-adjust if needed.  Repeat this step with the other half of the backing/batting. 


Once everything is wrinkle free, turn it over so that the backing is directly on the floor and the batting is exposed again.  Lay your quilt top right side facing up over the batting and once again smooth out the wrinkles.  Follow the same steps that you used to attach the backing to the batting, turn the quilt sandwich over to make sure the backing still looks good and then you're done!


You can fold your basted quilt until you are ready to quilt it.  If it sits for longer than a week, the basting spray can lose it's tackiness.  If this happens simply iron both sides of the quilt sandwich with a warm iron to re-activate the spray.

Friday, December 3, 2010

That Quilt Along {Progress}

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Welcome to week 6!  I know I owe everyone a post on finishing a quilt and I promise to have that up tomorrow.  The week of Thanksgiving and catching up this week has completely kicked my butt!  I've been super frazzled this week so my apologies...

There's been some really good discussion in our Flickr group about types of batting, quilting plans, etc so if you have a question or just want to make some new quilting friends, that's a great place to be.

Today I want to give everyone the opportunity to show off their progress no matter where they are in the process.  I've been seeing some great pictures and I'll say it again, I'm very impressed with how everyone is doing!  So link up and I'll see ya'll tomorrow with instructions for week 6... :)

PS: how do you like my blog's Christmas look? I love Flickr and Picnik...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

do.Good {a block}

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You know that paralyzed feeling you get when there's so much to do and you don't know where to start? 

I'm having one of those weeks... I have lots of projects in the works but I've spent most of this week staring at them.  So instead of letting you stare along with me, I thought I'd show you a really fun bee block. 


1. Yellow & White/Tan, 2. Sunrise Spectrum Baby Quilt, 3. Pinks & Red, 4. Oranges

Rachel of Stitched in Color was the designer/quilter for the month of November in our charity bee, do. Good Stitches. {my absolute favorite bee, BTW}.  She had the genius idea of embroidering linen blocks, sending them out to us assigning color themes to each stitcher.  I got orange and I was thrilled about that because I'm loving orange these days.


Her embroidery is amazing!  I can't embroider at all so I'm always impressed with you ladies who can.


I kept my block fairly simple.  This is for a baby quilt but I love the bicycle print because I know this quilt will be cherished well into childhood.  I pieced it improv style but kept it square so the embroidery really stands out.  I'm pleased... :)

I can't wait to see the finished quilt!  Rachel is so talented and I know this quilt will be beautiful and will be a blessing to a young mom.
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