Snow Day, Sew Day

VMQ-snow-day-01Today is a snow day. 27 degrees with light fluffy flakes falling until late afternoon. Of course, we have no milk…but there’s chocolate, coffee, and wine – something for everyone.  When I woke up this morning, I told my son that we’d do something fun, maybe play at the park because I thought the weather was going to be warm,  Then I looked outside…VMQ-snow-day-03Plans were revised and my little homebody said he didn’t want to go in the car anyway. My current plan is to spend as much time as possible in my sewing room. Snow day = sew day!

VMQ-snow-day-02In a perfect moment of serendipity, my “new” vintage pattern arrived this morning and the countdown to Easter has begun. I’ll start with the less ambitious bonnet and move onto a dress if there’s still time. VMQ-snow-day-04Our lives have been a bit chaotic lately. We have some big changes coming up and I’m just wading through it all one day at a time. Good changes, though We have lots of exciting things to look forward to, but many steps to take to get there first.VMQ-snow-day-05

Our baby girl just turned 5 months. She’s sitting up and chattering and laughing. She adores her big brother.  Her face lights up when she sees him and her baby blue eyes follow him everywhere. Their little games and giggles together are the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. VMQ-snow-day-06I am working on a new tutorial for the Moda Bake Shop, too. I’ll share here once it’s published. It is Valentine-related but better late than never is my motto.

Happy snow day/sew day to all of you!

What I’m Sewing

It feels like I never get to sew these days but when I look back at my Instagram photos, I’ve gotten quite a few things done. This first quilt that’s ready for binding has been sitting at the longarmer (Urban Spools) for a YEAR. Good thing she’s a friend! Her quilting is amazing and perfectly enhances the piecing. I just need a few Downton Abbeys on the DVR and I’ll have this thing bound in no time. That teaser photo makes it look rather Mardi Gras themed but it’s actually quite a bold color palette. (I started with this stack of Bella Solids.)

City-AviationI also finished a quilt top that’s been on several retreats with me and been the cause of at least two orders from Fat Quarter Shop (replenishing that peacock sashing).  I had a dozen more blocks to cut out and I just decided that it was good as is and sewed what I had together. It’s going in the closet with all the other finished tops where hopefully my quilting Fairy Godmother will finish it with a swish of her wand.Framed

This quilt top is made from American Jane’s latest line Fresh Air. I just love everything Sandy Klop designs. It’s so cheerful. I used the Layer Player pattern from the Moda Bake Shop and honestly whipped this one up in a couple of days. It’s that easy (even with baby and toddler at my feet!). Fresh-AirI also managed to sew the last two borders on my Marmalade Jubilee quilt, which some of you may recognize as the one I used in my Learn to Quilt series. It’s next on my list for basting and quilting so I can finally get to the embarrassingly overdue lesson on binding. MarmaladeThat’s what I’m sewing!

Hello, 2015

2015-01-02_1420164401 There’s just something about this time of year that is so hopeful. Maybe it’s the blank pages in my planner (and all of the temptingly beautiful planners in stores!). Maybe it’s the contrast with the excesses of Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas. (So many cookies! So much candy!) Whatever it is, I love this time of year. I love the feeling that we can start over with a clean slate. It even feels good to jump back into blogging and I hope to be around this space a lot more in 2015 than I was last year.

I’m starting out the year with some personal resolutions and some that may strike a chord with you.

2015-01-02_14201757931.  Spend 5 minutes cleaning up my workspace before bed. Every single day. I tend to create a huge explosion of fabric and notebooks and templates and notions when I sew.  My hope is to at least tidy away the surface of my cutting table and sewing table each night so things don’t pile up. Then instead of avoiding the room because of the mess, I’ll feel invited to come in and sew.

2015-01-01_14201490482. Don’t take shortcuts. I used to take a lot of sewing/quilting shortcuts, mostly out of ignorance of the proper way to do things. Many of those shortcuts have been cut out of my repertoire, but some remain. Not taking the time to pin is the main thing I’d like to stop doing this year. #justpinit

2015-01-02_1420242610One of my shortcuts that has come back to haunt me while working on some old WIPs is failure to cut sashing/block borders. I used to take one WOF strip and just sort of space out my blocks on it and trim it up at the end. (This method looks like a block bunting where the string is a WOF strip).  Doing this adds bulk to your blocks and creates waves and wonkiness. The results are so much better if you cut the strips to the necessary length and PIN.

3. Share the Love. There are often times when I see or read things online that I don’t like. But there are also times when I see things I really like and this year, I’m going to tell people! There is so much negativity online. It’s always been there, but I suppose since I now seem to straddle both sides of this industry (consumer and producer), I really notice it more. I see it in book reviews, on Instagram feeds, on Facebook walls, and all over blog comments. There are some real butt heads out there. It particularly irks me when people are giving things away for free and others leave rude comments. If someone used their time and talent to produce something (pattern, tutorial, lesson, photos, giveaway),  it is really beyond the pale to complain about said free thing. It’s not your taste? You find it too simple? Don’t partake! There are so many makers out there so instead of leaving that rude comment, just move on and find someone you like better to follow. I love this old-ish Bonnie Hunter post about all the whiners who complain about her free mystery quilt sew-alongs. Seriously, don’t be that person; be the nice person. I’m going to be.

2015-01-03_14203114224.  List everything. I used to have an amazing memory. I honestly thought people were full of bull when they said having kids or being pregnant gave them “baby brain.” I also thought it was pretty insulting to women (how are pregnant CEOs going to overcome said baby brain and do their jobs?!) I don’t like to blame it on the kids per se, but being a mom, working from home, running a small business, and maintaining a household requires a lot of hats. I have a hard time focusing and it’s often hard to decide which task to do. Lots of juggling and frankly, just getting it done rather than doing it well occurred in 2014. List making is my go-to for managing all of the disparate tasks that can easily overwhelm (and paralyze!) me. Every night after dinner, I list 5 tasks I need to accomplish the following day. These are specific tasks (answer emails, cut out blocks, write fabric requirements in XYZ pattern, grocery shopping) and often these tasks make up a bigger goal I have for the week.  It helps me to stay on track when I only have 15-45 minutes to spend on a task at one time.

5. Timers are my BFF. Timers tell our 3-year-old when it’s bedtime, naptime, etc. and it minimizes back talk. Timers also help me with my most-hated household tasks (pretty much all cleaning). If I spend 30-45 minutes per day cleaning, that’s enough to keep the house looking nice. I usually break that down into smaller segments: 15 minutes is enough time to clean a small bathroom and 30 minutes is enough time to Swiffer and dust our bedroom and make the bed – even put away some laundry. The house will never meet my Aunt Irma’s cleanliness standards, but it’s not disgusting and sometimes that is enough.

Happy New Year to you all!

Our New Normal

10735601_198767150309570_1461045788_nSweet Diana is 7 weeks old now and we are all slowly settling in to a new routine. I’m even finding time to sew in between catching up with work and keeping up with the never-ending housework. (seriously, will it ever end?)

10787865_874339549251585_1988092098_nI find that I can fit a lot of TO DOs into my day but completing tasks is not so simple. Starting projects is easy and tempting…

10731619_322124651302963_312864909_nSome days all I want to do is sew and sew but in the absence of that, I give myself the gift of at least 15 minutes a day with my sewing machine.

10755786_1559162237653809_473843075_nSome days that means I only have time to clean out the lint and oil it,,,

10748072_454857501323519_276497927_nBut I have finished a few small projects ({Take Flight Art Smock} and {Sweet + Spooky Halloween Mini Quilt}) and made progress on several that have been sitting untouched since my last quilt retreat (in June or July?).

10724943_711571812258519_1448043671_nI do get to stare at this beautiful face every day, which makes up for all the sewing I’m missing.

DSC_8882-4-webIt’s a pretty fair trade.

Our Baby Girl

2014 is not going to be one of those years where I finish twenty or so quilts. Instead, Ill settle for just a few and our wonderful new baby girl.

photoHer name is Diana Caroline and she’s so smiley and sweet.  She is happy and demanding like a newborn should be and things are slowly, very slowly, getting back to a (new) normal around here.

Baby-DianaIt’s funny how I always want to sew the most when I have the least amount of time to do so. I’ve been spending lots of nursing hours with a sketchbook or iPhone in hand, making notes, to do lists, and calculating fabric yardage. Hopefully those things will make the transition from paper to fabric before too long.

New Patterns

I’ve taken a long break from pattern writing. Well, that’s not entirely true. It’s more accurate to say that I’ve taken a long break from pattern finishing.  But now that I’ve reached the countdown phase of this pregnancy, I’m feeling anxious to get some sewing and such done! There are fewer than 8 weeks before we meet this little girl.

Of course, one of the patterns I’m working on is baby-related.  I’ll post again once I’ve got it finished and linked up on the shop. The others I’ve got in the works are quilts and a patchwork nap mat. I hope to get three released before baby with several more to come around Quilt Market. But whether I get them done or not, it’s fun to be sewing and writing again! I’ve missed it.

A Few of My Favorite Things

The coolest thing happened yesterday that brought several of my favorite things together: my dog Moose, midcentury modern design, and crewel. Sounds like a weird combination, huh? Let me explain.

I posted this photo of Moose to my Instagram account, hashtagging it with all sorts of things, including midcentury modern.

He’s resting his chin on one of my newly reupholstered midcentury modern walnut chairs (that particular one was free. Yes, FREE. I got it at a publisher’s warehouse off Industrial Blvd here in Dallas when they were moving to a new location. They also sold me a Jens Risom desk for $75.)

That photo was “liked” by Vladimir Kagan designs on Instagram. He is a well-known MCM furniture designer with some really beautiful pieces (and he also has a charming blog). I Googled him and read on his Wikipedia page that he was married to the late Erica Wilson, the goddess of the 1960s/1970s crewel revival. I’ve been obsessed with her kits and books for years.

I got such a kick out of the idea of these two creative people together and what a neat couple they must have been. I found a blog post with a tour of their home and he said that his favorite piece was the embroidered rocking chair that combines both of their work:

Image via sarahsarna.com

Now if only I could get a picture of Moose in that chair…

Recipe: Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and GritsShrimp and grits is one of my favorite things to eat and to cook. It’s cheesy, salty, spicy, seafood-y goodness. But when I say recipe, I mean it in only the very loosest sense. I rarely follow actual recipes when I cook so everything is an approximation of how I make it.

A few tips:

  • Roast the tomatoes and garlic ahead of time and this dish takes only about 30 minutes to prepare.
  • Do not add salt. Many of the ingredients are naturally salty and added salt will overpower all of the other flavors.

INGREDIENTS
For the Sauce:
2 medium tomatoes
1 head of garlic
Olive oil
1/2 lb sausage, finely chopped (Andouille or similar)
1/4 small onion, diced
1/2 cup diced mushrooms (optional)
3/4 cup white wine
2-3 Tbsp Creole seasoning
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 lb shrimp, cleaned and deveined
Fresh black pepper, to taste
Diced scallion or parsley for garnish

For the Grits:
1/2 cup uncooked grits
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice tomatoes into thick chunks and place on a baking sheet. Generously drizzle with olive oil. Remove the skin on the head of garlic and slice off the top 1/4″ to 1/2″ of the entire head. Place cut side up on the baking sheet and generously drizzle with olive oil. Roast tomatoes and garlic for 25-30 minutes. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, puree tomatoes in food processor until smooth. Pop garlic gloves out of skin (pinch the bottoms they will pop right out) and finely chop.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, brown the sausage. Toss in the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Cook until vegetables are tender. Turn up the heat and pour in the white wine. Let everything simmer for a few minutes to allow the alcohol to cook off.  Stir in the pureed roasted tomatoes, Creole seasoning, and black pepper. Turn the heat down to low. Add chicken broth if sauce is too thick. It should be a bit thinner than tomato soup.

In a separate saucepan, bring heavy cream and water to a boil. Add grits and cook over low heat with lid on for 12-14 minutes. Stir in cheeses and garlic once the grits are done.

While grits are cooking, add shrimp to the sauce and turn heat up to medium. Depending on the size, shrimp will need to simmer in the sauce about 5 to 7 minutes to be cooked through.

Serve hot with scallion and/or chopped parsley and Tabasco to taste if you want to add some heat..

 

My Studio: Looking Back

My sewing space is one of my favorite places to be. It has evolved over the years from a rarely used guest room to a full-blown quilting studio (the only thing missing is a long arm! Dear Santa…) It’s changed so much over a relatively short period of time that it’s hard to remember some of the phases I went through in organizing and decorating it. And there were many…

This year will make for a big change in our household with a fourth member joining our family and as nice as it would be to move to a bigger place, the reality in our housing market is very few properties selling in 2 or 3 days and renovations at nearly every price point.  After 8 years of constant projects (the first 4 years were filled with MAJOR projects like re-wiring the house and gutting the kitchen), I don’t have the heart or energy to renovate right now.  So what that means is less sewing room for me, I’ve been slowly making room by destashing and donating and reorganizing so that little miss can have a spot in my sewing studio. A nursery/sewing room seems like an odd combination but I think it will work out nicely. And honestly, it’s been rather liberating to whittle down my crafting supplies and fabric stash to the things I truly love.  My parents are coming to stay for a week soon to help me finish the transformation so I thought it would be fun to look back at the way it used to look around here…

2009 is the year I started quilting but my sewing space was mostly focused on home decor and garments.

VMQ Studio Through the Years

By 2010, you can see quilting has taken over..

VMQ Studio Through the Years

I changed things around a lot in 2010…

VMQ Studio Through the Years

And how it looked last time I took photos in here…

Aug-2012-04

This midcentury modern desk was a great addition to the space…I do miss it. I ended up selling it because it was so large.

VMQ Studio Through the Years

Things were messy at times…

VMQ Studio Through the Years

A lot going on with that desk!

VMQ Studio Through the Years

But I loved this wall best with my cutting table…

VMQ Studio Through the Years

This corner of the room went from quite sad…

VMQ Studio Through the Years

To a pretty spot to hang out…

VMQ Studio Through the Years

To a fabric storage area…

VMQ Studio Through the Years

Back to a pretty spot to hang out…and finally with matching drapes! Did you notice I could never seem to finish that yellow set from earlier photos?

VMQ Studio Through the Years

I wish I’d taken more pictures through the years, but it’s the kind of thing you just don’t think about. It will be fun to share again once I’ve finished the nursery side of the room. Hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane!

Simple Art from Bella Solids

Color cards for fabric solids become dated at some point…I’m on my third version of the Moda Fabrics Bella Solids color card. Now that I’m on this kick to clean out my sewing stuff, I decided it was time to say goodbye to the first one I bought in 2009.

Bella Solids

I hated to just throw it away though, so instead I trimmed some of the strips off and put them together into a little piece of art:

Bella Solids

I used a frame I already owned and some cardboard backing to glue the swatch strips on. That’s it! I’m thinking about hanging it in the nursery.