Thursday, April 10, 2014

Saying Goodbye

Umbrella Prints Trimmings Hexagon Pillow by Fabric Mutt

Every year I look forward to the Umbrella Prints Trimmings Competition. It's not about the prizes really. It's about the challenge of taking these little leftover pieces of fabric and turning them into something new. Working with scraps is always a welcome reminder that the ragged pieces of my life can become something beautiful if I let them, but I had no idea how personal this year's project would turn out to be.

Umbrella Prints Trimmings Hexagon Pillow by Fabric Mutt

My husband woke me on Wednesday morning to say that my grandmother's assisted living home had called with the news that Grandma was unresponsive. Paramedics arrived, found that her heart had stopped, and resuscitated her. We ended up sitting beside her in a hospital room where she was unconscious and breathing heavily, not knowing whether she would last the next hour or another six months. Mom and I decided that we would spend the night with her, so I went home to pack a bag. I had decided to try a hexagon project this year with my Umbrella Prints trimmings, and it seemed like a good idea to tuck them into a sewing kit and bring them along to keep my hands busy.

Umbrella Prints Trimmings Hexagon Pillow by Fabric Mutt

I will always remember April 2, 2014 as one of the longest nights of my life. Mom and I sat together in that dimly lit hospital room, keeping a quiet vigil over my grandmother, and it felt as though we lived through a week instead of just hours. We talked and cried, prayed and listened and cried some more. I read your sweet Instagram comments to my mother, and we were both encouraged (thank you, dear friends). I basted my hexagons, laid them out in a pattern, and spent at least an hour rearranging them over and over again on a little table in the corner of the room. Mom held Grandma's hand, reassuring her now and then that it was okay to let go, that we loved her. Through it all, we saw the signs that death was coming closer. As her seizures gave way to peaceful breathing and her heartbeat began to slow down, we set everything aside to focus on my grandmother, to love and pray her through the doorway between life and death. She drew her last breath shortly after noon on April 3rd.

Umbrella Prints Trimmings Hexagon Pillow by Fabric Mutt

It took me several days to be able to pick up this project again. The feelings from that night were still so raw that I almost couldn't bear opening my sewing kit and staring them in the face. In the end, I decided that finishing this pillow might just be my own way of finding some healing and closure. I added two hexagons made from Japanese prints to the ones from my trimmings packet -- one including the word "life." It seemed appropriate. The hexagons were sewn together by hand and stitched down onto a background of chocolate brown linen by machine. I added one hexagon to the back of the pillow which reminds me slightly of a sun coming up over the horizon. The pillow now sits on the loveseat in my parents' room, a gift to my dear mother who has been amazing through all of this.

As many of you know, my grandmother moved into a nearby assisted living home this past December and quickly went downhill under the debilitating influence of dementia, but when I started sewing and blogging several years ago, she was one of my biggest cheerleaders. It was Grandma who often slipped some money into my hand when I came to visit her, insisting, "Buy yourself some new fabric, Heidi Jean!" (Have I mentioned that Grandma's first name was Jean?) She loved to send me pictures of quilts, asking if I could make the same thing for her, and she insisted on buying me a subscription to Mollie Makes so that I could keep up on the latest inspiration. I think she probably drove people crazy showing them printouts from my blog and pointing out my quilts which she had displayed all over her house. Her gifts and encouragement helped me keep this blog going, especially in those early days, and I wouldn't be where I am if it weren't for her.

Goodbye for a little while, Grandma. We love you.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Grey Abbey Pouch

Grey Abbey Spring Hexagon Pouch by Fabric Mutt

It is such a pleasure to see the incredible amount of talent we have in the fabric industry these days. Every month it seems I'm discovering new artists who are bringing their own style to the world of textiles, and I am so enjoying the diversity of what's available to those of us who sew. Cloud 9 Fabrics has some lovely designers working within their collective, and Elizabeth Olwen is one of them. I adored her Grey Abbey collection at first sight. My first hexagon project in a while came together using several fabrics from this line.

Grey Abbey Spring Hexagon Pouch by Fabric Mutt

I decided to go with an extremely subtle color palette for this pouch: grey, cream, white, black, peach, and yellow. Prints were pulled from a mix of different designers to complement the Grey Abbey colors, yielding a look that reminds me strongly of the old small town library where I spent about half my life when I was growing up. The hexagons are stitched to a pale grey linen, and I attached a small black and cream twill tape loop on the side. The pouch is lined in a black and white star print from the new Homestead collection by Juliana Horner.

Grey Abbey Spring Hexagon Pouch by Fabric Mutt

This pouch feels like the softer side of spring. The colors and the peaceful repetition of hand sewing were quiet and calming and just what I needed this week. Every time I sew with hexagons, I remember again why I love it so much...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rocket Age Laptop Bag

Riley Blake Fabrics Rocket Age Laptop Bag by Fabric Mutt

I bought my old laptop bag when I got hired as an assistant principal back in 2008, so it wasn't much of a surprise when the handles started breaking last month. Just about that time my friends at Riley Blake Fabrics sent me a few prints from their cute new Rocket Age collection. It was destiny, I tell you...

Riley Blake Fabrics Rocket Age Laptop Bag by Fabric Mutt

Even though I have three little girls in my house, I can appreciate the need for boy-friendly fabrics, and these are just about perfect as far as I'm concerned. I love the subtlety of the navy Rocket Blast print, and the clever retro details in the Rocket Ads design. The Rocket System print makes a nice lining for the laptop sleeve that I sewed to go along with the case. I actually based the design of my bag on some vintage military map bags I've seen on Etsy in the past year like this one. They're full of pockets and compartments for tools and writing utensils -- just the sort of thing that I like. Wide cotton webbing made a great crossbody strap, and I used a narrower piece of webbing along with a lobster clasp and D-ring to rig up a bag closure.

Riley Blake Fabrics Rocket Age Laptop Bag by Fabric Mutt

As always, there are a few things that I can improve on next time, but overall I'm quite happy with my new bag. I took it out for a test run today so that I could do some work on my book away from the house, and it was definitely a success.

Don't you just love it when that happens?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Piccadilly Blouse

Denyse Schmidt Piccadilly Simplicity Patterns Clothing

Clothing has been tough this year. To start with, I'm a curvy girl (yes, as in "plus size"), which limits my options to a grand total of 3 out of the 33 women's clothing stores at our local outdoor mall. When I do visit one of those three shops, I find myself struggling with a sort of fashion identity crisis. As a 36 year old stay-at-home-mom, where do I belong? When you cross off the career section, the twenty-something section, and the grandma section, there's not much left. And for the past three months, the plus size women's section has completely disappeared from all our local Target stores where I used to buy at least half of my clothes. The salesgirl that I questioned on my last trip told me that their women's clothing shipment was late this year but still on its way...some time in May.

Denyse Schmidt Piccadilly Simplicity Patterns Clothing

Sigh... Going shopping for clothes used to get me excited. Nowadays it just makes me tired. After a particularly crummy experience last week, my husband shook his head and said, "That's it. Go buy yourself a book on sewing clothing. I know you can make something better than what they're selling you at those prices." Unfortunately it's hard to find books geared toward curvy girls these days. I've drooled over lots of modern dress books and patterns in the past year, but I've sadly had to set them aside when I realized that they were designed for women half my size.

Denyse Schmidt Piccadilly Simplicity Patterns Clothing

Thankfully, there are a few companies making patterns for girls like me, and Simplicity is one of them. I picked up this pattern (#1620) and a few yards of a print from Piccadilly, Denyse Schmidt's latest line for Joann Fabrics, on Friday night and started sewing on Sunday afternoon. In a few hours, I had a new top that actually fit me. I sewed a little sash to go along with the blouse just for fun. I plan to try this pattern again with a few adjustments and using a fabric with a little more drape. It's absolutely mind boggling for me to think that I can actually design my own clothing to fit my shape and personality.

Though there is definitely room for improvement, I think I did pretty well for my first clothing project. It all reminds me once again what I love most about being able to sew: the freedom of it. There have been days when I've walked through the mall and felt like there was no place left for me anywhere in the fashion world. By sewing that top yesterday, I created a place for myself, and I made it exactly the way I like it. It's taken me a long time to work up the courage to try sewing clothes, but I guarantee you, there's no turning back now...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Kindle Case & a Winner

Heather Ross Kindle Case by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

My dad asked me to make a cover for his Kindle using his favorite Heather Ross print from Spoonflower. It's incredible to me how small and thin these little devices are now. His measures 4 1/2 x 6 1/2" and only about 1/4" thick. Sewing a cover for something that tiny can be a little tricky since the opening of the case won't fit around the bed of the machine, so you have to get creative.

Heather Ross Kindle Case by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I kept things super simple. There's no extra quilting on here, and a simple Velcro closure holds it together.The pouch is lined with a Chicopee print by Denyse Schmidt which has always reminded me a bit of tire tracks. It took less than an hour to put this case together, and Dad loves it.

After reading all of your comments on my last post, including so many horror stories of broken and dying irons, I desperately wish that I could send you all a new toy for your sewing room. I can tell you that the new Durathon is available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for about $39 if you're really needing a new one -- my friend Becky just bought one yesterday with a coupon for added savings. Score! Anyway, the winner of the drawing is Jesabelle who has the most adorable Etsy shop right here. Do stop by and pay her a visit.

Happy Wednesday to all of you!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Durathon Iron Review & Giveaway

I've been living with the Durathon Iron for a few weeks since the nice people at Hamilton Beach sent me a free one and asked me to test it and post a review on my blog. I have to admit it: I'm pretty glad I said yes.

For me, the make or break issue with every iron is steam. I've gone through several irons over the past few years, all with varying levels of steam output, and the Durathon is definitely in the running for first place in the steam department. I love that this iron gives me a powerful, consistent level of steam when I'm working with the cotton and linen fabrics that I sew with the most. Thankfully, it also has a fairly large water chamber which keeps up with the steam well enough that I don't have to run to the sink every five minutes. The iron maintains its level of heat nicely as well, and it's not too heavy, even with the added base for the retractable cord -- a feature which I always enjoy. With three little girls around, I don't like to have any possibilities of a cord coming loose and dangling off the edge of a shelf within reach of curious hands.

I really only have one complaint with the iron. Though I love the look and convenience of the digital temperature settings, every time the iron is unplugged, you have to set the temperature back to where you want it. This was never a problem with the manual dial on my old iron which always stayed at "cotton/linen" and automatically went to that setting as soon as I plugged the iron in each time I used it. There are times when I plug in the Durathon, start cutting fabric, come back to start pressing, and realize that the heat is still off and waiting to be activated. It's a minor irritant, but a real one.

All in all, I can definitely recommend the Hamilton Beach Durathon. My last iron was a faithful workhorse, but it sadly died a slow death at the end, giving me several frustrating days of work and reminding me not to take the secondary tools for granted. A good iron is crucial to the sewing process. If you choose the Durathon, I think you'll be well pleased with the results. 

So who wants a free iron? Hamilton Beach is offering another Durathon for me to give away to my readers. Just leave a comment on this post -- including your email address if you're a no-reply blogger! -- and I'll draw a random winner on Wednesday, March 12. International entries are welcome. If I don't hear back from the first winner within 48 hours, I'll draw another name for the prize. It's always fun to get a new toy for the sewing room, so be sure to get your name in the ring before Wednesday!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Quilty Bucket List: The Magnificent Seven

When Stacey asked me to be a part of her Quilty Bucket List Blog Hop, I was so pleased to be a part of such a fantastic idea. It's really easy to add new ideas to my Pinterest boards and spot new patterns that I want to try, but I don't always follow up on these the way I should. Making and keeping a definite list helps me to remember the projects that I most want to tackle. This is so helpful when you're between projects or looking for a long term project to occupy you for several months. I made myself a starter list last week from the first ideas that popped into my mind...

Heather Ross Improv Quilt by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

1. a sampler style quilt: I haven't decided yet exactly what this is going to be, but I have a soft spot for quilts like the Farmer's Wife Sampler, Dear Jane Sampler, City Sampler, Gypsy Wife Quilt, etc. Either I'm going to follow a pattern or try to get creative on my own, but I like the idea of making one of these beauties. I feel like I got a little taste of that with my Heather Ross improv quilts last year (one of which is pictured above), but I'd like to go bigger next time.

2. a solids quilt: though I'm normally drawn to prints, I really love the look of quilts that are made entirely from solids. I purchased the stack you see above from Pink Chalk Fabrics a few months back (you can purchase one of your own right here), and I'm determined to turn it into a quilt.

3. a linen quilt: I have a fairly large linen stash, most of which is used to make bags and pouches. I'd love to put some of these into a quilt.

4. a voile quilt: I've been holding on to this stack of voile prints since last summer, but I haven't yet found the right pattern. These are too beautiful to stay in the cabinet much longer. I need to start doing some serious research in this department.

5. clothes: I've gotten so close to making clothes several times, and something always comes up to drag me away from my goal. This is the year -- I've promised myself! I'm going to make something for either myself or the girls to wear in 2014. There are some great ideas in Heather Ross's beautiful book Weekend Sewing that I'd love to try.

6. a free motion quilting project: I've been wanting to work on my (basically nonexistent) free motion quilting skills for a long time. Last year I bought Angela Walters' wildly popular book on the subject, and I'm excited to start practicing this in the months ahead so that I can actually use it on one of my quilts.

7. make one project from each of my sewing books: I have a lot of sewing books on my shelf, but sadly I don't always get around to actually making projects from their gorgeous pages. I'm hoping to go through this stack and make at least one project out of each book in the coming year.

There are more ideas already tugging at the edges of my mind, but I've decided that I don't want to make this list too long. A really long list can be just as unproductive as no list at all, in my experience. All those numbers run together and either look like too much work or too hard a decision to make about where to start. So I've decided to permanently christen my bucket list as "The Magnificent Seven" (yes, I do love that movie) and leave it at that. If an item gets crossed off my list, then I get the fun of picking another item to take its place. In the long run, I think doing it this way will make me far more likely to actually work on these projects instead of just watching them taunt me from a clipboard hanging on the wall.

So what's on your list? What are the projects that you've been dying to pull off your Pinterest board and bring into your own sewing room? Over the next month, we'd love it if you would share your list -- and maybe even a finished project or two! -- with all of us. You can join the Quilty Bucket List link-up all during the month of March through Stacey's blog hop kickoff post here or by simply clicking on the link below:

An InLinkz Link-up

We'd love to see your lists and projects on Instagram too! Just be sure to add the hashtag #quiltybucketlist to your photos. Other bloggers will be sharing their own Quilty Bucket Lists with you every Monday. Take a look at this lineup...

March 3 

March 10

March 17 

March 24

Thanks so much to Stacey for hosting such a wonderfully encouraging event. I can't wait to see what we all make! It takes literally five to ten minutes to draw up a list of your own. What do you want to sew?
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