echo plumes machine quilting

hand pieced quilt progress

patchwork quilt along fat quarter shop

I’ve always known that I like hand work–I love to bind quilts, I knit and embroider a little–but I really had no idea how much I would love hand piecing. When I started this crazy idea, I wasn’t at all sure that I would be able to see it through. About halfway through my first block I thought, “What have I gotten myself into?” But I pushed through, and now, a mere three months into this project, I can very clearly see my progress.

The actual motion of hand piecing is becoming second nature, and it feels so good to just slow down. I tend to do things very quickly–I walk fast, talk fast, and do most tasks as if I am getting a medal for speed. I’ve made a big effort this last year to slow down my machine sewing as well. I am always working on improving my accuracy, and slowing down is a big part of that for me. I hear about these sewing machines that sew 1500 stitches a minute and wonder how in the world someone can sew that fast without careening out of control.

patchwork quilt along fat quarter shop
I kind of love the crumpled mess of the blocks before the final (only) pressing.

Hand sewing takes time–something that always feels in short supply these days. I do all my prep work up front–I cut out all six blocks for the Patchwork Quilt Along and then mark the stitching lines on the back of them (I wrote about my favorite hand piecing tools here). This takes a good evening or two–usually while listening to a podcast or watching Netflix. Then I just keep everything I need to hand sew in a basket.

I drag this basket from room to room–or even in the car, using found moments to sew a seam or two. I think that this is one of the most unexpected parts about hand sewing–all the memories that are being sewn into this quilt. I will always remember that I worked on it in the car as we drove up to do a college tour for Jonah, that I binge-watched and cried my way through the entire season of This is Us, and that I worked on it pretty much every night when we gather as a family to share a TV show together before bed.

patchwork quilt along fat quarter shop

At first hand sewing a whole quilt seemed a little daunting, but now I realize that just like everything else–it is so much more doable when you break it down into small chunks. In this case, six blocks a month. I seem to need to be reminded of this over and over again–break it down and tackle it one bit at a time.

 

echo plumes machine quilting

these actually are your grandmother’s quilts

handmade antique quilts

The phrase, “Not your grandmother’s quilt” is so prevalent in articles about quilts these days–as if our grandmother’s quilts are somehow “less than” what we are creating today. I could not disagree more.

So today, I’d like to introduce you to three quilts made by my husband’s grandmother, Lettie Maude. As is the way it goes, his mother did not inherit the sewing gene and sadly had little information about them. But he remembers them on the beds in the house all throughout  his childhood. And then he brought them with him when we got married. Even though they were threadbare even then, we continued to use them for many years. I just noticed them in the linen cabinet recently and pulled them out to appreciate them with new eyes.

We don’t really know when they were made, but I’m guessing the 1930s and 40s. I’m no expert, but the fabrics seem consistent with that and it makes sense with her age as well. They are all utilitarian scrap quilts and my husband says that he actually remembers some of the fabrics coming from his grandmother’s dresses. Though the are meant for use and using up bits of old clothes and bits of fabric–each quilt has a unique design that prevents it from being to chaotic.

This little gem was on my daughter’s bed until she left for college last fall. And while it is clearly scrappy–I love how the light and dark purples really give it pattern and structure.

antique quilt

It is worn through in many places, but this didn’t actually stop us from using it until recently.

All three quilts are all machine quilted, but the stitch length on the piecing leads me to believe that these were all hand pieced. The quilter definitely wasn’t worried about points either!

This totally cracks me up. Three of the four corners are curved, but that fourth one is totally squared off as if to say, “I’m done with this already!” This one is machine bound with a crazy zig-zag stitch–another sign that this quilt was meant to be used.

This next one is a very simple scrappy Nine Patch. The design is calmed down by a couple of factors. One is the white snowball block that alternates with the nine patches. But the other I found really interesting. Every nine patch has either green or yellow patches in the corners and center square. This provides a unifying color scheme. Now, our quilter did not arrange these green and yellow blocks in any order–they are totally random–which I find totally charming, but not at all anything I could ever do. And, do you see that hole?

This one is also machine quilted and the design is so uniform that for a moment I wondered if it was computer generated–but obviously not! I guess the quilter just had made these designs so many times that they are amazingly uniform.  And I know I said that every block was either green or yellow–but can you spot that rogue yellow square in what was supposed to be a green block? A humility block, perhaps? Or ore likely, she just ran out of green fabric.

It’s fun to look at the quilting pattern–I remember asking my mother-in-law how they were done. I was not a quilter yet and had no idea about free motion quilting. Achieving this shape on a domestic sewing machine seemed impossible to me. All she said was, “She sent them away to be quilted.” So, I have no idea if they were done on a longarm or a domestic machine–but the designs seem to be in long columns, so I’m thinking a longarm–which was called a “quilting machine” in those days.

Here is the last one. While also a scrap quilt, the design really unifies the scrappiness..

I actually love the way that fabric on this one is just literally wearing away in a swiss cheese fashion.

And there is that same quilting pattern!

antique quilt pattern

All three of these quilts have been retired from active use and are now happily folded on a bench in our family room to appreciate in a new way. I would like to think that Lettie Maude would be happy to know that these labors of love have been in use for the last 80 or so years. And we continue to appreciate them to this day.

I am actually thinking about remaking one of them in contemporary fabrics–but I haven’t decided which one yet. Which one would you choose?

echo plumes machine quilting

fifteen minutes of creativity a day

What can you accomplish in fifteen minutes a day?

In the spirit of “little things add up to big things”, a piece of wisdom imparted by my best friend in college, I’ve been participating in something called Marchalong this month. All this means is that you to commit to setting aside fifteen minutes a day for creativity. That’s it. Fifteen minutes. But if you do it–how many hours of creativity does that add up to by the end of the month? Actually, I’m terrible at math, but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot.

I’ve tried this “fifteen minutes a day” idea before with cleaning and decluttering–and honestly, it has never stuck for the whole month. But doing something fun and creative? I think I can make that happen for fifteen minutes a day.

So, how have I been spending my few minutes of creativity so far? First, I finished up my February hand sewing project that I am doing along with the Fat Quarter Shop. I am really loving hand piecing these blocks–I’m almost sorry when I’ve finished the six for the month. But the March blocks will be coming out soon, so I don’t have long to wait. I’ve been stitching away on these in the evenings while we watch Grace and Frankie and This is Us. I’m all caught up now with This is Us and it is agony to wait a week between episodes. I clearly need to find a new British drama to become obsessed with–any suggestions?

patchwork quiltalong, fat quarter shop, hand pieced quilt blocks

In the meantime, I cast on some shorty socks. I got a little obsessed with knitting socks over the summer, but have not cast on a pair in months.  It was clearly time to do so. I cast these on while listening to The Off-Kilter Quilt podcast–which is my favorite quilty podcast. Frances is charming and chatty and just plain entertaining. It’s a great way to spend your fifteen minutes.

knitting, knit picks, knitting project bags, podcasts, tea

Don’t you love this knitting project bag? My friend Minki made it for my birthday last year and I smile every time I reach for it.  People went a little nuts over it on Instagram the other day, but I can’t take any credit for it, except for the little pink knitted patch on the front.

I’m also working on a new quilt design–and honestly the jury is still out on how I feel about this one. I am in absolute love with the fabric line, Sundrops by Cory Yoder. That fact is not in doubt. However, I have rearranged the blocks in a million different ways and I hope I landed on the best one. Stay tuned.

sundrops, moda fabrics, quilting, alphabitties

I like having a few different projects at hand–because sometimes I just don’t feel like sitting down in front of the sewing machine. Or the only way that I’m going to get my fifteen minutes in is in the waiting room at the doctor’s office–so I’m glad that I can pack a sock to knit. But one thing is sure, I’m always amazed at how quickly a project progresses when you actually work on it! Even for just fifteen minutes a day.

What’s for dinner?

Because thinking about what’s for dinner is never far from any woman’s mind, I thought I would share that we are having Jonah’s favorite: Chicken Piccata Pasta Toss. You should try it 🙂 What are you having?

echo plumes machine quilting

Interview on String & Story

quilt blogs

 The delightful HollyAnne of String and Story sent me a few questions to answer for her FriYAY Friends post. Pop on over to learn a bit more about my creative journey and where I find inspiration. You can read it here.

offkilterstory-300x209

Free Quilt Story: The Off-Kilter Quilt

 

One of my favorite websites, Quiltfiction.com, has released a serialized story to be told in five parts. How fun is that?! It’s called the Off -Kilter Quilt and you might have guessed, is the brainchild of Frances Dowell of the Off-Kilter Quilt podcast. Frances is an award-winning author and avid quilter–so she has really knows how to weave reading and quilting together in such an enjoyable way. I’ve had the opportunity to read the entire story and it is as fun and charming as Frances herself. So–do yourself a favor and pop over to read Part One.

Let me know what you think!

 

echo plumes machine quilting

Your precious handmades. Do you use them?

tea, tea pot, handmade coaster

It all started with this coaster. I was having coffee with my friend Minki the other day and as always, we talking about sewing and the things we love to make. Then she said the nicest thing to me.

“I learned from you to actually use the things I make. Not just take a picture of them and then put them on the shelf.” Aww. To think that I have had an influence on a talent like Minki’s was a nice moment for me. But then I had to confess.

“I’m kind of having trouble with that now. You know that hand embroidered coaster you gave me a couple of years ago? I do use it. And it’s a bit of a stained mess now and I feel bad about it.” I didn’t tell her that sometimes I actually tuck it away in a drawer when she is coming over, so that she won’t see what has become of her hard work.

Then she told me, “I actually think that stained linen is beautiful.”

hand made coaster, Minki Kim

And you know what, she’s right. (This coaster actually looks worse in real life, for some reason.)

That got me thinking about all the handmade, everyday use items I have around that house. Knitted dishcloths are my absolute favorite, but I am always a little sad when one starts to come unraveled. I actually usually merely move it to the rag drawer until it is nothing but a pile of string.

grandma's dishcloth

These are the coasters we use every, single day. They are about eight years old and I hope that I have learned to sew a gap together better than I did in those days. But this illustrates my point exactly. When you use things–you use them up. And sometimes that’s fine, but sometimes its hard–like not saving your fancy china for that dinner party you’ll never actually have.

quilted coasters

I’ve spent countless hours embroidering these tea towels, and they are stained and faded and have holes in them. I will never be able to bring myself to throw them away–so I’m already starting to think about what I can do with them when their useful lives as tea towels is over. Any ideas? What I need to do is start planning for that day now and simply make some more. That’s what we makers do, right? It’s just an excuse to make some more.

dish towels, handmade dish towels

My favorite table runner has definitely seen better days

quilting, linen, patchwork

And so has my favorite tea cozy. Okay, maybe a trip through the wash might help this one.

high tea fabrics, lecien

And even my first quilt, only eight years old, is already looking like this. But this is the most loved quilt in the house. It is exactly the right weight for our warm southern California weather and is the first thing that every family member grabs from the quilt basket each morning. It gets washed because I pick it up from the floor a dozen times a day and it comforts the child with the flu. And over Christmas it cradled my dying cat. So, I’m looking at those frayed edges a little differently now.

French General quilt

So, what to do? I think the only thing to do here is to embrace the beauty of the well-loved and worn. There is a story behind every handmade item. A story about the person who made it and what was happening in their life as they sewed each stitch. There are the stories of the everyday life of the people who are blessed to use it daily. To wash the dishes after a regular, weeknight dinner. To wrap the child reading a book. To set the morning coffee cup on, before dawn everyday.

And if they are not as perfect and pristine as they once were–it’s because they bear the marks of an everyday life well-lived. And I can live with that.

echo plumes machine quilting

Filigree Free Quilt Pattern

Welcome to my stop on the Filigree Blog Tour hosted by the Fat Quarter Shop!

First let me say how much I love this pattern–the strong criss-cross elements, the secondary patterns that emerge, and the interplay of the fabrics.

filigree quilt

The Fabrics

Let’s start with the fabrics. I used the Playground line by Amy Sinibaldi for Art Gallery Fabrics–plus some AFG denim and Pure Elements solid in Linen. Have you ever felt fabric from AFG? It has a lovely silky smooth, delicate feel and a beautiful drape. It feels quite different from standard quilting cotton–in a very good way.

filigree quilt

And when I say denim, I don’t mean heavy denim like jeans. It has the awesome look of denim, but with the same wonderful lightweight feel as the other AGF fabrics. And the denim fabric has the wonderful quality that it goes with everything! Just like your favorite jeans, you can dress it up or dress it down. I am in love with the way it works with the Playground fabrics, especially the pinks and golds. This quilt has a light-weight, silky feel that I know is going make it favorite to grab and curl up with  on the sofa in our house.

filigree quilt

The Filigree Pattern

Whenever I start a new quilt pattern I first like to make a couple of blocks to make sure that the pattern is working as expected before I cut all the fabric. I would rather experience my learning curve on a couple of blocks than finding out I made a cutting mistake after I cut out all the fabric (don’t ask me how I came to this realization) . In this case it paid off in that I realized I I wanted to spend a little extra time fussy cutting one of the fabrics to get the most out of the print.

I was also reminded that I don’t like to use steam when pressing triangles–they get stretched out so easily. And speaking of pressing–this pattern includes pressing instructions, and if you pay attention to them it really pays off in the final construction. All your seams nest like a dream, which really helps keep your points sharp and the quilt top to lay nice and flat.

Stitch basting

Obviously this is a quilt where you want your points to match. At least I do. It was the first time I have put together a quilt where the nested seam allowances were coming in on a diagonal.  Pinning wasn’t really working for me to keep things in place. So I started stitch basting.

filigree quilt

I haven’t done much of this in past–but now I know I will do it all the time in the future. Let me explain: after I nested my seams, instead of pinning them to keep them in place, I would slip it under the machine and just sew a 1/2″ seam right over that area with a 3.0 stitch length. Then I would slide the block to the next seam intersection, nest the seams and baste that intersection in place, and so on.  At first I thought that this was going to be very time consuming.  But in short order I got my rhythm going and I think it may actually be faster than pinning. And the results are amazing! Every intersection is so firmly held in place with perfect points and no slipping, which I find happens sometimes with pinning. I am glad to have that l technique up my sleeve for future quilts.

The construction of the quilt was pure fun–lots of chain piecing and simple block construction. FQS created a wonderful video tutorial if you want to check it out for some helpful tips. It went together beautifully. I quilted it  using my favorite Warm and Natural batting and some simple, straight line quilting with a sweet pale pink thread (Auriful 2410). I love the pale pink against the denim and it is perfect for the Playground fabrics as well.  I was tempted to quilt it a little more densely, but I really love how soft and snuggly it is being rather lightly quilting.

filigree quilt

The blocks are oversized and then trimmed down to perfection–which is my favorite way to make a quilt. Trimming blocks before sewing them together really improves the accuracy and makes it so easy to do things like match up seams. I used the Creative Grids 7.5″ square ruler to trim up the blocks.  I tried to use a ruler that I already had to do this, and it is probably possible–but the correct ruler made the task so much more enjoyable that I was glad that I made the investment. I’ve never used a Creative Grids ruler before, but I have to say that I am a convert! They have these little spots on the bottom that prevent them from slipping and lines are nice and narrow, which really helps with accurate cutting.

You can get the Filigree quilt pattern for free from The Fat Quarter Shop. They also have a gorgeous kit for it that includes the denim that I also used along with the AGF line Wonderful Things.

beach quilt
(I had to add this one because it was crazy windy that day!)
echo plumes machine quilting

I’ve changed my name to Simple. Handmade. Everyday.

 

hand sewing and drinking tea
{photo credit: Minki Kim}

I just wanted to pop in to say that I’ve changed this blog’s name from They Grow Up Too Fast to Simple. Handmade. Everyday. to reflect the types of things that I want to write about. I started this as a Mommy blog about six years ago to document my children growing up. As sewing and crafting became a bigger and bigger part of my life, and as my children became more and more reluctant to having their lives shared in this space–the blog evolved. Which is totally fine–but the name just didn’t work anymore.

My desire now is to share my love for living an intentional life. Filling your home with handmade goodness that you actually use every day, living simply, cooking from scratch to feed a family of teens, parenting those teens, and all the other tidbits that make up a simple, intentional life are all things that I am looking forward to sharing here. I hope that you will join me on the journey.

xo. Kristin

echo plumes machine quilting

Just a few heart quilt blocks

quilt blocks

I’ve been a bit between quilting projects lately. Actually, I’m very impatiently awaiting a fabric delivery, but the UPS truck seems to have lost its way. So when I saw that HollyAnne of String and Story was making and collecting charity blocks for Smiley for Kylie, it seemed a perfect opportunity to rifle through my stash and spend a fun evening or two sewing up some blocks for a good cause. And, as a cancer survivor myself—I know what a handmade blanket means for a person during chemo. I actually took a knitted blanket that my sister-in-law had made for my then 2-year old son to my chemo treatments. I felt both wrapped in love and reminded of what I was fighting for at the same time.

quilt blocks

The heart blocks are supposed to be yellow, navy, and or white, 10” blocks using the Cluck Cluck Sew pattern (there is also a tutorial). It turns out that I have very little yellow and virtually no navy blue in my stash—but I pulled out what I had and was able to sew up a quick six blocks. It was totally fun sewing and I enjoyed every minute of it. And I was able to pop them in the mail to HollyAnne the next day. But then what?

As it turns out, if you use the construction technique that Cluck Cluck Sew recommends, you can simply sew one extra seam and end up with some spare, rather large half square triangles. I learned this trick when I made my Swoon quilt several years ago (and I have yet to do anything with that bag of HSTs, but let’s not talk about that). Determined not to let these HSTs suffer the same, stuck in a baggie fate, and since staring out the window was not making the UPS guy appear with my fabric order—I started to play around with the leftover HSTs.

trimming half square triangles

I tried many layouts and landed on one that looks like flying geese, but it’s not. It’s HSTs–I swear.

I decided to turn these “free” blocks into a quilting practice piece and ultimately a dish drying mat. We hand wash a lot of dishes in this house and you can never have too many dish mats. And since most of mine are ratty 10-year old towels, this was a definite improvement. Except that it’s a little small. I guess I should have made twelve charity blocks instead. Next time.

I used some leftover Warm and Natural batting and terrycloth for the backing. Then I pulled out Walk by Jacquie Gering, a Christmas gift that I was excited to put to use. It was a tough choice, but I decided on organic waves for the quilting. The book is filled with fun designs–I’m looking forward to exploring it more.

walking foot quilting

I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun quilting. I make no bones about the fact that my happy place is piecing—not quilting. But I’m trying to make friends with quilting. This motif is so fun and easy and I love the results! I can’t wait to try this design out on a full quilt; I can totally picture relaxing and getting into the zen of it, instead of my shoulders all tensed up to my ears, which is my usual quilting posture.

walking foot quilting

I have recently begun experimenting with leaving 1/4″ of batting when I trim up a quilt. It results in a nice plump, filled binding.

trimming quilt tops

So that’s it—the tale of some charity blocks scraps that made their way into our kitchen to live out their useful life. As it should be.

handmade dish drying mat

Now, where is that UPS guy?

echo plumes machine quilting

My favorite hand piecing tools

patchwork-along-blocks

Six blocks down for the Fat Quarter Shop’s Patchwork Quilt Along. I finished them in about a week and a half and I can only hope that I can maintain that pace for a whole year. I am actually a bit sad that they are done and I don’t get the next pattern until next month. My hands feel so idle in the evenings now, while we have our family TV time. Yes, I have things to knit–but I’m a little obsessed with hand sewing right now.

As I mentioned in my last post–I made just about every mistake you could make with the first few blocks. As I continued with the next three, I’ve been experimenting with a few things (especially needles) and I have arrived at a few of my favorite tools.

hand-piecing-tools

Perhaps most importantly, I have found what I think is the perfect needle: Piecemakers Hand Applique Sharp size 12. It is thin enough to have little to no drag on the fabric, an eye that is not impossible to thread (though I do use a very simple needle threader–the red square in the picture), and is a very nice length. I also like the Betweens from the same maker, but I find them a bit short–they don’t hit my thimble in the right place.

Speaking of thimbles, I’ve had this one for forever. I’ve tried all kinds of thimbles and this simple metal one that you can buy at any craft store (probably Dritz brand) is my favorite. Fun fact: I like this size now, but I have a smaller one that works better when I’m a bit thinner.

After making all the marking mistakes early on, I am now marking with a thin, mechanical pencil using the Jinny Beyer Perfect Piecer. Yes, you can use any old ruler, but this one has all the right markings and one day I hope to graduate to just being able to mark the dots and not the whole line–and this one has perfect little holes for that.

Everything else is pretty self-explanitory: my favorite Aurifil 2311 50 wt. thread, a small pair of sharp scissors, some nice thin pins, and the ever present red Clover clips to keep things together and organized.

patchwork-blocks

I keep all of this in a little zipper pouch that a wonderful friend made me and I am ready to make the most of “found” moments throughout my day. Most recently, I did a bit of hand piecing in a hotel hallway, waiting for my son to perform with his Jazz Honor Band. Small moments, big results.