Handmade Holidays

I would almost always choose to make a handmade decoration instead of buying something off the shelf. I just wanted to share a few things that I’m enjoying in this year’s collection.

One of the simplest “DIY” projects I did this year was a wreath for our front door. My husband Mark and I just gathered some items from the floral section of our local craft store and wired them together, but I love it. Especially because we did it together – crafting is not usually my husband’s jam.

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Beyond the wreath, Mark and I like to stay away from too much traditional “red and green” and instead celebrate winter more broadly. I painted this canvas after being inspired by a similar design in last year’s West Elm catalogs. Just simple and geometric, but somehow reminds me of ice and cold. It sits by our fireplace. I also made these simple “trees” with a wintery fabric wrapped around cones.

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We will be traveling to see family this Christmas, so we decided to go for a smaller tree at our place and keep things simple. I decorated with hand-sewn felt ornaments that give a nod to my love of Scandanavian design, quilting, and hand lettering. Check out my Sew Mama Sew giveaway today by going to my Instagram to win a set of five hand-stitched ornaments (open through Sunday Dec 13th)! I also am working on some other simple ornaments created with paint pens and Sharpies on clear plastic orbs. Hopefully some pictures to come soon on Instagram!

Ornaments

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Since this is our first holiday season in the house we purchased this year, I decided it was time to make some stockings for our family. When I was younger, we would celebrate Christmas every year with my maternal grandmother, Eleanore. She was always someone who made things by hand, albeit in the “quick and dirty” fashion. She took a lot of pride in decorating stockings for every new member of the family by cutting Christmas tree shapes, slightly wonky candy canes, and lopsided stars out of felt and gluing them down. I tried to take this “tradition” in my own direction by making my own stockings from navy felt and decorating with our little “dog pack”. I’m the fox, Mark is the wolf, and I’m betting you can guess which one is Gideon, our boxer!

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For this year, that is my holiday decor! Along with some pine boughs that make our house smell great and strings of little while Christmas lights everywhere (my favorite!)

 

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19 Stars – Quilts of Indiana’s Past and Present

Just before it’s opening day, a few friends from the Indianapolis Modern Quilt Guild and I got a sneak-peek at this fantastic new exhibit at the Indiana State Museum: 19 Stars – Quilts of Indiana’s Past and Present.

The exhibit divides quilts into two sections: “past” and “present” which each get a gallery across the hall from one another. Every quilt has some kind of representation of a “star” and is made in Indiana.

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As we wandered through, we began in the “past” section which highlights some very beautiful and moving Amish quilts along with others made between the 1830s and the 1980s. I loved the simple and utilitarian look of these quilts (as I always do) and was amazed (although maybe this should have been less surprising) that all these quilts were hand-sewn. I guess many quilters weren’t using even the earliest machines at that point!

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We then moved to the “present” section. As a “Modern” quilter, some of these resonated with me as “my style” and others didn’t. However, I found them all to be interesting especially because these current-day quilts had been commissioned specifically for the exhibit. This meant that each one was a representation by the quilter of his or her style, the way that they wished it to be kept for posterity.

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One of the things I found myself wondering would be how we would sequence these quilts if we tried to line them up from “traditional” to “modern” in terms of design and aesthetic instead of their date of creation. I imagine the exhibit would be organized quite differently! Some of the quilts made since 1980 are much more “traditional” in their color schemes, design, and fabric choices than the older ones!

I also wondered how we can get MORE Modern quilts in shows like this!!

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Some of the things that stuck in my head for future projects:

  • How do you “modernize” something that still speaks to the heritage of heirloom designs?
  • As a member of the “modern quilting movement” how do I keep improving the way I distinguish “modern” from “modern day” when I talk to non-quilters?
  • What is the best way to utilize and love quilts in their lifetime and still save some to pass down to future generations?
  • What stories and documentation should we keep with our quilts to give them context and meaning when those future generations pull them out of an old closet?

 

New Studio Space!

So, over the last few months, my sewing has had to take a back seat. My husband and I went through a house-hunting process, purchased a home, and have been doing updates. Although this all was time consuming, sometimes stressful, and a lot of work, it is an extremely exciting time. We both love to do projects that make a place “ours” and this one has tons of potential!

The other “light at the end of the tunnel” is that I knew our new place would have to have a great creative area for my sewing and my husband’s hobbies. We aren’t ALL the way there yet, but I wanted to show off what I’ve set up so far. This room is our “bonus room” on our second floor above our garage. We repainted it all white to give it as much light as possible and set a neutral background for colorful projects.

My bookshelf contains some of my most prized possessions. In our family, books have always been a centerpiece and I collect books both for inspiration and instruction on a wide variety of creative interests.

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My cutting table (our old raised eating table) has plenty of room on all sides and gets me on my feet. I aimed for a triangle between cutting, sewing, and ironing.

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My ironing board was a gift from my mother-in-law. It was hers when she was my age and has the squeaks and retro yellow legs to prove it!

 

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I’ll be doubling this surface area when our other folding table gets rescued from underneath tons of tools and paint from our renovations!

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One of the great additions to the space are these shelves that finally allow me to get all my fabric “out of hiding” and really get a feel for what I have on hand.

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We get great sunlight during the day in here, but I’ll need to add more lighting, move our small couch in for hand-quilting next to a cuddly dog, and find the best places to hang some art. I’m also on the hunt for a new sewing chair!

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Any suggestions from YOUR sewing room?

Resolve in 2015

I am a big believer in New Years Resolutions. Not necessarily because I need January 1st to come around every year to set goals. But because it sparks at least a few moments of reflection and opens the door for planning and dreaming about the future. I often become contemplative around this time of year and appreciate a date on the calendar as a milestone reminding me to take a step back and “think bigger” than I normally do.

This year, I have a lot of things I’d like to do (my own private list is a long one scribbled in my planner). 2015 starts with me in a hugely different place than I started 2014. This time last year, I had just formally decided to leave my job and leave the East Coast and move to Indiana for this next new adventure. I hope that 2015 will be a year about connecting to this new place as well as reaching out to new and old friends far away. So I’ve decided on the following four resolutions as a starting point. I’ll expand on each of these in the next few weeks as I think about what projects, priorities, and approaches I’ll use to achieve these over the course of the year.

  • I resolve to connect more with people I care about across distance. I have some absolutely incredible people in my life who unfortunately live in quite disparate places. However, after moving many times before and befriending people who are used to traversing the globe, I am sure that distance should not be insurmountable in staying connected.
  • I resolve to give year-round. I have always loved making gifts and often do this for the holiday season. However, I want to be sure that even with my work on Lane 33 1/2, I still take the time to make or send gifts throughout the year. This keeps me thinking about people I love frequently and keeps my eye sharp to things and ideas that might appeal to the people in my life. To me, this can be more meaningful than gathering packages in a frenzy during a pre-ordained period.
  • I resolve to celebrate and gather more often. In our busy house (and yours?) we sometimes run so fast that we don’t take the time to celebrate and appreciate the good moments, big or small. For me, the opportunity to cook a great meal, set a table, and sit down for conversation and laughter is one of the best experiences I can create or share with others. Gathering and spending time with people I care about is something I want to do more this year to feed my soul.
  • I resolve to grow local roots. I feel so much better when I can learn about and find roots in the place where I live. I missed this sorely in my previous home where I was a daily commuter and never successfully made friends or strong ties to the town where I “laid my head at night”. I’ve now been in Indiana for about six months and have already started to lay roots. Now I want to get to know the area better, meet more people in the creative community, see the natural beauty in the area, and find ways to support our local economy.

With all this in mind, I’m ready to ring in the New Year tonight, leap off a chair into 2015 (to celebrate a family tradition), toast the birthday of one of my closest friends who lives across the country, and welcome the chance to pursue a year of new dreams and goals. What is coming for you in 2015?

 

 

Exploration in Red

So, this week I started what I plan to be a three-part series where I explore variations on red and white log cabin quilts. They will all be the size of wall hangings and I will machine-piece and hand-quilt them all.

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I wanted to do this because red and white can be so amazingly graphic and allows me to highlight the possibilities of simple variation in piecing and quilting within a very tightly specified set of parameters.

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Today’s slow stitching has been to start hand quilting my pieced top. The pattern (Baptist Fan or Sashiko, depending on what tradition you pull from!) is such a fun way to have an organic and round shape interplay with this highly regimented square Log Cabin. Looking forward to how the dynamic looks on the full top.

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Inspiration and Focus

Over the last week, I have had an interesting internal dialog going about the balance between inspiration and focus. Let me break that down – in my mind, there is a tension between finding and feeling inspiration and digging in to focus on execution.

I get energized by all kinds of inspiration ranging from Pinterest searches and reading books to chatting with other sewists online or at meetings of the local modern quilt guild. I save photos on my phone, pin ideas online, draw sketches of future projects, and jot down design concepts for potential future creations. One set of ideas will fade or shift as another new set floats to the surface in my brain. My favorite designs and aesthetic are definitely a blend of multiple genres and intersections in design from around the world. I credit this to a wide range of places where I find inspiration and my interest in capturing patterns that arise through time and across cultures.

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At the same time, filling endless scrap pages with scribbled drawings and hitting 1K Pinterest pins does not actually get me very far. Often I find myself pulling my head up from a dreamy imagination session to the realization that I haven’t “done” anything yet today. So, in probably an exaggerated swing of over-compensation, I switch to extreme “get it done” mode. For example, leading up to the craft fairs where I’m selling this season, I’ve had to be very diligent about structuring my time to actually accomplish and complete projects (both creative and logistical). This process can be equally satisfying. I love making specific lists, crossing things off as they get completed, and enjoying the feeling of holding a finished product in my hands. But after the list has been completed, what am I supposed to do next if I haven’t spent any time thinking about what to pursue next?

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So. What I have been wondering this week is how to make the most of these two different directions without having them constantly in competition for my mental space! This means I have a few goals I’m trying to break down:

1) I want to be able to do both – and I need to be able to if I’m going to be successful. Neither cranking out the same old project nor constantly coming up with new ones will work alone.

2) I want to be proactive instead of reactive to avoid the manic shifts between types of work and the associated feelings of guilt. Maybe scheduling my time, planning for the cyclical nature of creating, and better tying together ideas with action.

3) I want to be flexible enough to recognize when a certain day or week is truly best spent just letting myself go full-on with one direction and abandoning the other for a while. I know that this is true and want to wrap my head around it.

Do you feel this kind of tension at any point? If so, how do you manage or capitalize upon it?

Slow Stitching Sunday

Happy Sunday! I’m using this as my first linked post to Slow Stitching Sunday. Since I love the feel, process, and results of hand-stitching, I wanted to make sure to post this week and talk a little about what I’m working on and why I love the chance to sit back and work a little slower, especially during a busy time of year.

Slow Sunday Stitching
I quilt all of my felt miniatures by hand and hand-quilt the pillows in my Etsy shop, and in the last several weeks, I’ve really been gearing up for two upcoming craft shows where I’ll be selling my products and some special things I’ve dreamed up for the holidays. This means that although I’ve been sewing the way I like, it still feels “fast” most of the time because I want to finish so many things before this deadline.
Because of all this, I’ve been reflecting a bit this week on how to make sure to have time for my “own” projects as well, and to use that as a chance to learn some new skills and create things that I feel will brighten my own home. This is particularly nice because since we moved to Indiana, we are still filling our house and trying to curate what kind of things we want for artwork, decor, etc.
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A few weeks ago, I finally decided to treat myself and buy Savor Each Stitch, the new book by one of my favorite quilters, Carolyn Friedlander. Her modern applique, geometric and color choices, and philosophy of gathering inspiration from her surroundings and working by hand to translate forms into quilts feels so “right”. I have long admired her quilts and although I usually don’t directly follow patterns from others, my new personal project was going to be a take on her Aerial Grove Quilt. This uses very small appliqued rounds of many fabrics to showcase color spectrum and your favorites from your fabric collection. You can see below that I’ve gathered a range of things to use for mine, have finished basting, and now am working on doing the actual needle-turn applique for the first few rounds.
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I’m aiming for beauty in imperfection (one of Caroyln’s themes in this quilt) as each round turns out slightly different, the color transitions are my own choosing rather than a preset order, and I’m learning needle-turn for the first time. Lots of good things together there to make it meditative, enjoyable as I move through each fabric I love, and a very ‘slow’ way to sit back for a while from the work of sewing for sale.
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In any case, to anyone else sewing today, happy Sunday!