Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Modern Sewcialites & Why I Sew

Recently, I joined Modern Sewcialites, a membership group with Stephanie at Modern Sewciety.  I've been a longtime listener of her podcast and appreciate her friendly and conversational approach. I also respect that Stephanie is open and honest about her goals to build her business and connect the sewing community. I am happy to support her efforts with the new Modern Sewcialites venture and I'm always up for connecting with other makers!

The Modern Sewcialites includes a Block-of-the-Month.  January's block was our word for the year.  Rather than a word, I chose a phrase "DO IT".  Meaning if I want to do something, I just need to go for it, put myself out there and take risks, whether it is creatively or in other parts of my life. I lost my mom in August to a (short) 9 month battle with leukemia and she lived her life, both before and during her disease, with bravery and independence. She did things like travel across the country solo, buy a log cabin, etc. and I’m so glad she marched to the beat of her own drum.  I learned that if you want to do something, don’t put it off. Too often, I go the safe route. I want to make 2018 a year of action and bravery for myself! More to come on that!

For February, we made this sweet heart block, and Stephanie prompted us to think about and discuss what we love about sewing and being creative.  For me, that is a story that has evolved over time.  In junior high school, I took home-ec class because my grandma did, my mom did and my sister did, and it was just the thing to do.  In 2009, I started sewing again after being inspired by my cousin who had fallen for the modern quilting movement.  At the time, I was mom to a 4 year old and desperately needed a creative outlet, something that was "mine".

One of my first garments when I started sewing again. Circa 2009!

I promptly dove in, buying up fabric and patterns, and taking over the dining room.  I dabbled in a little bit of everything, mostly clothes and bags and small items. I started this blog to document my projects.  My attention to sewing ebbed and flowed over the years and really picked up in the last four to five.  I found a group locally that connects me to others. I became active on Instagram which keeps me engaged and in awe of the goodness of creative makers out there.  Then a few years ago, I finally tried quilting. A previous post chronicled that initial journey.

A Mothers Day gift for Mom.

The past year and a half, sewing has taken on a new role - still a creative outlet, still something that is "mine", still providing a way to connect to others.  However, I now recognize sewing as therapy.  It drives something in me, the playing with color and shape and producing beautiful work. While my mom was sick and in treatment and eventually, in hospice, it gave me an escape.  And after a long day or week at work, I'm ready for some creative time. Since my mom passed, it has been somewhat healing to my soul. 

And, this is why I sew. 

Favorite Makes from 2017

While I wasn't blogging in 2017, I was definitely making!  A little of this and little of that.  All with plenty of color.  Here are some favorites.
Building Block Dress by Liesl Gibson
Another Building Block Dress
Wine tote...with cork!

Tall Tales Block by Kate Basti

I-spy for my nephews

Self-drafted Mid-Century mini

Sew Mojo Mini by Suzy Quilts

Doorstop...practical and cute!

Improv for my guild's QuiltCon charity quilt

Rug + Mug swap gift for guild

Beginnings of LaPassacaglia

Friday, September 23, 2016

What I've learned after finally jumping into quilting (...and why did it take me so long?)

I'm still newish to quilting.  After sewing just about everything except quilts for awhile, I finally tried it a couple of years ago!  To be honest, I was intimidated to try quilting before.  I was worried about feeling incompetent - am I cutting right?  do I have the right tools?   how am I ever going to be precise enough? what will the "real" quilters think?

Why are we like this as adults?  Kids don't have this filter. They just jump in and try and are simply pleased by the act. They don't care as much about the final product.

Nevertheless, I finally made a quilt a two years ago.  My first finish was made to celebrate my baby niece's arrival and was finished, oh, the night before my sister's baby shower.  I wrote about that quilt here, and also cautioned against making your very first quilt as a gift to someone special. The whole "gift" aspect adds a wee bit of pressure!

baby quilt for my sweet niece
Since then, I haven't actually finished a whole quilt.  I have a Modern Maples top that I pieced...and have yet to quilt.  I made a couple of mini quilts - one for a swap and one for my daughter's room.  Those were satisfying finishes.  And recently I helped coordinate two quilts for the Orlando MQG's #quiltsforpulse effort.  But that's it!
a mini for my daughter

Raspberry Kiss mini for #lovewinsminiswap
Wait, I honestly forgot two others until I looked through my photostream!  I finished a little doll quilt for a friend's one-year old.  And how could I forget the labor of love that was my nephews' i-spy drawstring quilt?!?
doll quilt in the softest Blueberry Park colors

i-spy drawstring quilt

But, no finishes of large quilts, like throw size or bed size. And I'm okay with that.  Here's why....

As a new quilter, I've taken some steps to build my skills first  I'm the kind of person who wants to know the ins and outs.  I research things to death.  I have a curiosity and want to know all the answers.  (Maybe the reason it took me so long to actually quilt, instead of exhaustingly reading about it.)   I thought a sampler would be a great first step in providing an opportunity to try many different blocks and learn new techniques.  And a sampler would force me to practice, practice, practice, and would get me sewing on a regular basis.  Sometimes we forget as adults the need to practice a new skill in order to get "good" (On a side note, i just listened to a great episode of the Good Life Project podcast that hit on this very topic of learning new skills as adults and being vulnerable....)

The Modern HST Sampler Quilt Along hosted by Alyce of Blossom Hearts Quilts seemed like a great place to start.  Half-square triangles are foundational to quilting and Alyce promised to teach several different methods and provide us the quilt math to master HSTs!  And two blocks per month seemed a perfect pace. In addition, Alyce hosts an great facebook group where fellow members post pictures of their blocks, share questions or tips and encourage each other. The group is so supportive and inspirational.  What a nice little corner of the world wide web!

At this point in the sampler QAL, I now realize that my fabric pull was somewhat ambitious for a newbie. Nearly ten different designers, numerous prints and colors, and an array of low volume background fabrics.  Phew!  The amount of fabrics has challenged me (in such a good way) to choose just the right fabric combinations to make individual blocks work, but also to consider the bigger balance of color and value to ensure cohesion.

my fabric pull
Pairing fabrics and considering placement, and then seeing the blocks come together is absolutely my favorite part of the process. And when it works, it works and is so satisfying!
block 14 : introspection

block 15 : windmill
As I finished my two most recent blocks (shown above), I could clearly recognize my improvement and evolution.  The blocks look crisper, more precise, the fabrics complement the design more so that my first few blocks.  I've also learned that slowing down and using the right tools makes all the difference.  Specifically, starching before cutting has helped, although I don't do it every time. I've always been a big fan of pressing, but I finally realized that using a dry iron vs steam is best and avoids the ripply look of my early blocks.  A tool that has really helped me is the Fons and Porter Quarter Inch Seam Marker.  Marking the seam line rather than the center line of the HST allows for more precision in my stitching.

hotel floor progress shot! i've been taking my machine along on work trips.
Looking back at  my earlier blocks, I don't love a few. I could easily remake them with different fabric choices or better process, but I'm not going to.  They are staying in the final quilt as a reminder of my progress!

block 1 : candy

block 5 : mountain

If you'd like to see all my blocks from the sampler, click the pages at the top of the blog. I've added a page for the Modern HST Sampler and post my blocks as they are completed. 

I've also started a second sampler, the Summer Sampler 2016, which has taught me many more lessons and deserves its own post!  


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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sewjo Reclaimed (and a peek at my sewing room...for a little while)

When I first started sewing again at the end of 2008, I took over the dining room, then the living room. The picture below is from March 2009 and is my most viewed picture on Flickr (@by Lorna). Amazingly, my whole stash of fabric and notions fit in those cute little green containers. Oh, how that has changed...

Living room circa 2009

In 2012 we finished our basement and I was so excited to claim a small room for my creative space. A dedicated sewing room seemed ideal.  But....I found that I did not sew nearly as much after moving to the basement.  All the family activity was upstairs, the kids were upstairs, the natural light was upstairs!  I couldn't be in the center of things.  I had to make a decision to go sew and almost make a declaration, "Family, I'm going to the basement to sew."

Slowly but surely, over the past year, I began to migrate my sewing back to the dining room.  First I moved my machine and a single project upstairs.  One project became three or four. Half my notions were strewn about. Fabric piled up, and so it went.  But even with the mess, I suddenly was sewing more.  The sewjo returned.  I was energized by creativity and color again.  I felt productive.  I dusted off this blog.  I finally jumped into quilting. Having my sewing right in the center of other activity allowed me to spend five or ten minutes sewing some seams or cutting out a project while dinner was cooking.  My older daughter could join me in the dining room with her homework. The little one could wander in and sit beside me and play with scraps.

A month ago we decided to move.  Or, more accurately, I found (and became emotionally attached to) a house before ours was anywhere near ready to put on the market.  A flurry of activity over a seven-day period ensued and a for sale went up.  Less than two days later we accepted an offer on our house and had an offer accepted on the new house.  Whew!  While the house was on the market, my sewing had to move neatly back to the sewing room in the basement.  The room never looked cleaner... (I won't show you my giant, overstuffed Expedit shelf on the opposite wall or the fabric and bags of stuff jammed in the storage closet!)

Basement sewing room all ready for house showings.
I do love this room. There is something to having a space that is all yours. Isn't the heart mini cute?  I received it as part of the #lovewinsminiswap last October from Elaine (@eirefinghin on instagram). The table on the left was my dad's kitchen table when he was a kid.  I love the art deco feel of the leg painting. The table on the right was built and finished by my late stepfather.  I put it on bed risers to bring it up to cutting height.   My husband and older daughter absolutely hate the rug and call it the "zebra rug".  However, my firecracker of a 3-year old loves it; she gets me.  Oh yeah, I bought that lovely Janome S7 at Glamp Stitchalot; I feel in love with the automatic thread cutter, among other things, and had to bring it home. You can also see my serger peeking out.  I overcame my fears last year and thought I had it figured out, but nope, not yet. I keep breaking thread and so it sits.

In the new house, my girls and I will claim a room right on the first floor.  All our sewing, art and crafting will happen there.  It will be easy to access and the girls can pull out supplies and create whenever they want.  The room has great natural light with two big windows.  Doors close off the space (and will hide our creative mess), which will make my husband much less antsy/twitchy.  We are excited!  Once we're all set up, I'll give a tour.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Reflections on Glamp Stitchalot 2016

I had the opportunity to attend Glamp Stitchalot earlier this month, hosted by the amazing and hardworking team from Pink Castle Fabrics, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Unlike most attendees (who bought tickets a year or so in advance), I only decided to attend a month prior when a friend needed to sell her ticket.  It was sort of an impulse decision, but come on, the teachers were Rashida Coleman-Hale, Carolyn Friedlander, Penny Layman, Monica Solorio-Snow, Violet Craft and Elizabeth Hartman.  Not exactly a bad line up, especially for someone who is relatively new to quilting and is firmly planted in the mania/hyperfocus/obsessive phase.  Give me all things quilty.  Right now.  (I know some of you understand what I'm saying).  

Glamp Stitchalot 2016 Review
Airplane Block by Rashida Coleman-Hale.  

Ann Arbor was an easy four hour drive for me from Cincinnati.  A bonus revelation, because I thought for sure it was more like five hours until I hopped in the car to leave and set the navigation. Only four hours - Sweet!   

Overall, I have to say, the event was incredibly well organized.  The staff worked so hard to present an amazing event weekend - a packed agenda with six different classes by amazing teachers, great meals and other social time, giveaways, support from vendors, a pop-up shop, machine rentals, etc. Because the team thought of everything and made it happen so seamlessly, all attendees had to do was wake up, shower (hopefully) and sew! Just show up!  The weekend offered a chance to learn from the best, have plenty of fun and recharge. There were all levels of skill and experience in attendance, so the environment was very comfortable and inspiring.

Glamp Stitchalot

Glamp is a "Choose your Own Adventure" sort of thing - with each attendee (Glamper?) choosing their level of intensity, the amount of sewing they'd like to accomplish, and also the level to which they want to socialize.  Some quilters may choose to approach Glamp truly as a immersive learning weekend, soaking in as much knowledge as absolutely possible.  Some approach it as a fun getaway to socialize with others who "get us" and speak the same quilty language.  Others may approach the weekend as an opportunity to speed sew and close down the sewing rooms each night to bust out as many blocks as possible.  And some do a little of each approach.  The point is, it's your choice.  There is plenty opportunity to socialize from an opening mixer to class time to lunch and dinners to a dance party (and probably a few after-parties)!  You can go all #fangirl with the amazing teachers, who are celebs in the sewing sphere, by asking asking for autographs and selfies.  Or you can stay more low key (I did, and it was a good recharge).  It's all up to you.

Glamp Stitchalot 2016 Review
Elizabeth Hartman's blocks.

The pre-event communication was great, with packing lists, a preview of the pattern and a very active Facebook group where we could pose questions and get information, make introductions and share information.  Brenda gave guidelines on how much fabric to bring and offered bundles to make things very easy for attendees.  I took a bundle of Kona solids that I already had (it was a quilt kit from 2014 and I absolutely love the colors), some Essex linen for background and a few of the new Indah Batiks from Me + You (which made fabulous shutters on my house blocks!)  I didn't do any prep other than last minute packing (the morning I left). Work and life is busy, so I really didn't have time to put a lot of thought into my approach and didn't pre-cut my fabric, although some did since we had the patterns in advance. I chose my fabrics and cut on-the-fly as each class began. It worked out great for me and I avoided some stress, too.

Glamp Stitchalot 2016 Review
One of Carolyn Friedlander's blocks.

Some tools that were especially helpful for me were a small cutting mat and rotary cutter to use machine-side (tip: mark your tools with your name or washi tape), a seam roller (I was shocked how well these work for paper piecing), an add-a-quarter ruler (so fast for trimming seam allowances during paper piecing) and a thread catcher.  And don't forget essentials like pencil, pen, sharpie (if you want autographs), etc.

A  pouch swap was offered for this Glamp and I participated.  Darci made the cute and colorful box pouch and threadcatcher above, which I love along with the extra goodies.  I made an Open Wide bag, by Patterns by Annie, shown below mid-construction, for Lisa who loves black and purple.  It's a sturdy and roomy bag with very nice finishing details.

Open Wide Bag Patterns by Annie

Finding your swap partner at the opening dinner/mixer helped some Glampers to break the ice. Another conversation starter was wearing a handmade garment or carrying a handmade bag. (I have mental notes of some things I'd like to make as a result! Inspiring!).  Some attendees swapped pins to make connections.   One of the members of my group, Jodi, made each group member and instructor one of the selvedge needle books shown above.  Super thoughtful!

I was able to finish several blocks and try curves, paper piecing and flying geese - all for the first time!  I knew not to expect a finished quilt top to take home. I'm grateful for the new skills, tips and confidence I gained, along with some new friends. Yay for staying connected on instagram!

Glamp Stitchalot 2016 Review
Progress shot.

My advice if you attend a future Glamp or similar event:  Be open to new techniques and step out of your comfort zone.  The next Glamp in November 2016 is all about improv and SO tempting!

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

New Sampler Pages

I added some pages that can be accessed in my header, to post progress on ongoing projects like sampler quilts. Currently, I am working on two samplers:  Modern HST Sampler and Summer Sampler 2016.  I link to both on their respective pages and show some progress pictures.  As a new(ish) quilter, participating in both samplers is helping expand my skills.

Summer Sampler 2016

Alyce's (from Blossom Heart Quilts) Modern HST Sampler, as the name implies, has introduced me to many different methods of making and arranging half-square triangles, such a staple for block building.  Also, working with a wide group of fabrics has challenged me on fabric selection for each block. My fabric pull includes over 10 designers, prints and solids, florals and geometric prints, and at least four different color families. It's been a great stretch for me to choose fabrics carefully for each block and maintain cohesion.

Modern HST Sampler

The Summer Sampler 2016 has allowed me to practice some additional techniques like curves and paper piecing.  For this sampler, I chose a very different set of fabrics - just 6 fabrics, mostly solids, in a limited and subtle color pallette.  This fabric pull is challenging me, too, in different ways. I'm loving the cool, calm vibe these fabrics are creating, still with a punch of color that I can't resist.

Summer Sampler 2016

Two samplers, along with my attendance at Glamp Stitchalot (post coming soon), are combining to make 2016 a year of skill building at just the right pace.  I'm loving it!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

new address, same blog :: sewbylorna@blogspot.com

Same blog, new address:   http://sewbylorna.blogspot.com