Apartment Therapy Tour

I am very honored (and, quite frankly, a little nervous) to have our home toured on Apartment Therapy today, please take a look. When I was asked by Andie if I wanted to do this, Peter and I had to think hard about it. We are not decorators, we don’t have expensive, iconic pieces that make others drool. But I decided to do the tour because I think what we do have is a home filled with us. Our home is filled with love, lots of handmade things, and we’ve made it a very comfortable, livable space. My hope is that our home shows that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to create a comfortable, lively space that you can feel proud of.

My Weekend at PNCA Part 2

More about the workshop I started telling you about yesterday…
Denyse wanted us to start thinking about and planning our own blocks during the second half of the class. I let my thoughts stew for the evening on Saturday, there was pizza and ice cream to be consumed with the Franz family. And laughing… lots of laughing.
So, the next day, it was time to start thinking and planning. I realized what I loved most about those first improvisational blocks were the tiny pieces of fabrics I kept pulling from the original brown bags. Teeny tiny pieces. I’d never done much piecing with fabric this size. It opened my eyes to the different effects of cutting down a large patterned fabric, or using a tiny piece of fabric in a bright color, bordered by a larger, calming block. I began sketching an idea using those little tiny pieces sewn together, thinking of them like little jewels, and surrounding them with lots of white, and fabrics I would “pretend were white”- I’ll explain.
I showed my idea to Denyse and the fabric that I brought. She quickly began to separate some of my tiny prints into the “white” or neutral pile, suggesting I treat them as solids. I took a picture of my stack-

And the prints I had to work with, a collection of yarndyes, thrifted men’s shirtings, yarndye plaid, etc-

I started playing around before lunch and made one block. I was only marginally happy with it, but making it made me realize what it was lacking and what I needed to do. I wanted to be as improvisational as those first blocks, and I felt like I was making too many rigid decisions and editing too much.

So I did my own version of paper bag piecing so I would take the picking and choosing out of the process. I would just grab and sew with whatever I got (I made sure to put in all the fabrics I thought were suitable, so I wasn’t picking crazy stuff). Also, Denyse made the suggestion that on those next pieces to concentrate only on the inner “jewel boxes” themselves first, and not the outer white spaces that made up the rest of the block. That was a brilliant idea that I hadn’t considered, and made it much easier. After lunch I made 3 more jewel boxes (I could have made more, but a small group of us went to lunch with Denyse and that was a total treat I couldn’t pass up!).

I am going to continue to play with these. Denyse talked through a couple of variations with me on where to go with this, and I am really inspired. I’ll be sure and post what I come up with.
(this is such a bad picture of me, but I don’t care!)
This girl is cool, and funny, and smart, and just plain nice. I was pretty star struck at first, but to be honest, she’s so approachable and willing to help, you just stop thinking about that.

Denyse has been teaching variations of this course since 2003 and she really knows how to talk through process (as a few of us were discussing on twitter). Not only that, but I really had fun getting to know Denyse herself. There were many of us from out of town, and we tended to hang together during the day and had such fun getting to know each other. It was a treat to be in a room with others all sewing and creating at the same time. Sewing as I do can be a solitary activity (not that I don’t love a stretch of time alone to create) and it was a nice change of pace to create and get inspired within a group. No blogs, no websites, just creative talking, sewing and support. I highly suggest switching gears and being a student when the opportunity arises. I want to try and do this from time to time.
Now to wait for Denyse’s new book to come out! Spring ’12!

My Weekend At PNCA Part 1

Could you hear the excitement and anticipation coming from my house? Early last Saturday morning, I got up before the rest of the family and headed down to Portland for a 2 day workshop at PNCA with Denyse Schmidt. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that Denyse is my quilting hero, the reason I made my first quilt years ago, the spark that started my love and passion for quilts, and this workshop, part of the Summer of Making series was a birthday gift from Peter, one that I’d been anticipating all summer (as I told the kids, my summer camp). I knew it would be a fun weekend, not only to sew alongside some other fantastic, funny, and interesting ladies (so fun to sew with others, rather than alone as I usually do), but to hang out with my favorite Frantz family.
We started Saturday with Denyse explaining her improvisational “paper bag piecing” method. I know some of you quilters know the idea behind this, but you are given 3 brown paper bags with various sizes of fabric. Without looking in the bag and choosing, you pull out pieces randomly, begin sewing and piecing, and building squares. Here is our first set of blocks (mine is bottom left).
We did this exercise 3 times, discussing after each what we liked and didn’t like. As we each suspected, there were some nice combinations within each block.
Here is Denyse, arranging the blocks on the flannel wall.
By midday on Saturday, we had the makings of a beautiful quilt top.
The goal of this exercise is to really embrace the unexpected combinations and happy accidents of colors, shapes, and patterns that we wouldn’t normally think of putting together. I focused on speeding through my own improvisational blocks, I didn’t want to hesitate for a minute and possibly start making decisions.
Here is one of my first blocks-
Often quilting can feel very rule-oriented and rigid. It can feel wrong and incorrect if its not done using the proven traditional techniques. Rules aren’t bad, in fact there are many times when I’m sewing a quilt that I enjoy being told exact process steps and I often learn something sewing that way. But it is also great to break free of that and experiment without the rigidity of hard and fast rules. Making it up as you go along can also be beautiful.
At the end of Saturday, once we’d completed these blocks, Denyse tasked us with pulling out the elements that really spoke to us during that exercise, to start designing blocks for our own quilt in our sketchbooks. I’ll explain more about what I came up with tomorrow, I wasn’t initially excited about it, but after talking with Denyse about it, now I am.

Dining Room Cocktail Bar Sparkle

Cocktail Bar
In the midst of a ton of things going on right now, I started obsessing thinking about adding a little sparkle to the dining room. Just cause. In its newest version, this room is so much cheerier and brighter than it has been (before and after pics in this post), I absolutely love everything about it. But there was a void in the corner, it just needed something there, nothing crazy or complicated, just something. I thought about a large plant (even though Gracie is good about not eating plants, THAT one would be the one, with my luck). I tried out a couple of things we had, which were okay but not the answer.

Quilting For Beginners: How To Make a Nine Patch

quilting for beginners1
First of all, hope everyone had a lovely Mother’s Day! Mine was, um, well, memorable. There were a couple of broken vacuums and a prompt 12pm arrival for the Star Wars Exhibit at PacSci when our tickets were actually for 12AM the previous night (don’t ask). I would not suffer through these kinds of days with just anyone, so I’m really lucky to have a family who loves me enough to suffer through them with me… and keep me laughing through it all.

Secondly, it occured to me that I do not show the actual process of sewing up what it is I show you on the blog these days nearly enough. This type of thing used to be normal for me, and if I’m going to keep blogging, what I’d love to do is to create some more how-to’s to explain the process, instead of assuming that everyone stopping by here already knows the basic steps.
Okay, pillows. I tend to change the pillows on our front porch bench at least twice a year. I use the same pillow inserts over and over, just change the covers. This year, giving a nod to our recent vacation off the coast of Florida, I decided to give a fun nod to my East Coast roots and go totally preppy, using some Lily Pulitzer scraps to make some quilted 9 patch covers. But really, a 9 patch pattern is a great use of any of your favorite scraps. (I found my Lily scraps from this etsy seller). I had enough to do the front of all 3 pillows shown above.


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