Project Simplify - The Winner Is ...

(I know, I know.  I could have used a random number generator.  But this was way more fun!)

 ... Lisa L!  And to everyone who participated in my first giveaway - seriously - thank you for not letting me look like a total blogging doofus :)

Now, I didn't mention before that I still had leftovers because I didn't know what to do with them. 

That is until I read Julianne's lovely comment about making a quilt for her local Children's Hospital.  Julianne, I'm sending these leftovers to you!

One last thing, I just want to say how sincerely grateful I am to every single one of you who've found me here are willing to spend some of your time keeping me company.  I really do appreciate it.


The Best Kind of Fun

Around here, the best kind of fun is "Auntie Jill" fun.

My sister was here last week and the girls always have tons of things they want to do with her.  And she - being the world's best Aunt - is more than happy to oblige them.  This time around there were so many things on the agenda they had trouble deciding what to do first.  So they came up with this little activity bowl.

And here's what they put in it.


  • Clue (board game)
  • pillow fight
  • dog pile on Jill
  • Monopoly
  • Petal Purses (a craft)
  • coloring

So a few games of this were played,

several rounds of this,

and even a little crafting.  (I didn't get any pictures of the dog pile or pillow fight, but I was assured that no one suffered a concussion.)

We miss you, Auntie Jill!


Project Simplify - Giveaway

Look what accidentally happened to the leftovers!

How about a giveaway to celebrate a successful first Chapter? My helper & I would love to find a good home for this little package.  Just leave me a comment saying ... well ... anything nice, and you'll be entered to win.

This giveaway includes:

  • fabric requirements - precut by yours truly - to make the same quilt top I made with one little change:  the background fabric is red paint spatters instead of the multi-colored flowers (but still from the same fabric collection)
  • extra yardage (red checkers) in case you'd prefer to make regular binding instead of the raw-edge
  • a little label - also from the same collection - that says "Memories are made of this"

It does NOT include:

(My home is smoke/pet free ... unless you consider dust bunnies pets ... then I have a few.)

Comments will close 9:00 pm EST (North America) on Sunday, April 10th and I'll announce the winner Monday morning on the 11th.

(I'm very excited about this - my first giveaway.  But also kinda nervous.  If no one enters, I'll give the prize to a local guild so they can make up the quilt and donate it to a charity of their choice.)


Project Simplify - Day 5

Backing, binding & naming.  Boring?  I think not!

I'm a back piecer for a few reasons:

  • I use up leftovers of almost any size (which helps on cost)
  • I like how it gives the quilt a little extra personality
  • It makes for a nice surprise - almost like a two-sided quilt

You like?

I tried a new technique ala Simplify - raw edge binding.  I hadn't heard of it before and when I looked at the pictures was reminded of rag quilts.  Now I don't have anything against rag quilts per se, they're just not my thing.  But I did see a pretty nice one lately that's got me thinking a little differently about them - as has this binding technique.

So I was open to trying something new.  Know what?  It was super easy.  And if you're going for a casual, fun look this is definitely worth considering.  See?  (I l.o.v.e. scrappy binding.  Love, love, love it.)

When you're making, say, a baby quilt or don't have much time to make a little gift, a technique like this is great to have in your repertoire - no binding to hand stitch is a real time-saver.  It only takes a few extra minutes to de-fray the fray ;) .  (Right now I'm wishing I was a talented fibre artist so I could make something cool with this pretty mass of thread instead of just throwing it out!)

Now, what's in a name? 

If you've ever had the honour of naming a living being (human or animal), you've felt the weight of such responsibility (at least that's what it was like for me ... twice!)  Thankfully, a quilt won't resent you when it's a teenager.  I always name my quilts.  It's a reward for me.  But I wanted my helper to have the fun and without hesitation she chose "Summer Day".


Alright.  Let's see where we are.

  • Make quilt in Chapter One for charity - check!
  • Tackle free-motion quilting - check!
  • Have fun with daughter - check!
  • Meet lots of super-cool new people in bloggyland - checkity check check check!

Stash Redux:

  • Weight loss - 4.64 lbs  or  2.11 kgs 
  • Yardage loss - 8.14 yds  or  7.44 m

Tomorrow I have a little surprise for you.


Seven Random Things

A very sweet blogger I met recently honored me with a Stylish Blogger award.  Thank you so much Jennie!  Well (I say sheepishly), not really sure what that is, but I gather from her blog that I'm to share 7 random things about myself with you.  

1. I've never had a cup of coffee.  Ever.

2. My favorite movie is the Princess Bride ... and BBC's Pride & Prejudice (the Colin Firth version).

3. I have hexagon tiles on my bathroom floor because the first quilt I ever made was "Grandmother's Flower Garden".

4. I have seen (almost) every episode of every Star Trek franchise.  "Live long and prosper."  Actually, my favorite quote is "Make it so, Number One."  My husband hears that a lot.

5. I hate stepping on worms.  Ugh!!!

6. Of the many things I've discovered about myself since becoming a mom, one of the more surprising is a seemingly instinctive willingness to catch my child's vomit - in my bare hands - to minimize the cleanup during a marathon nine hour road trip.  (Sorry, did I go too far with that one?)

7. I ALWAYS have hand wipes in my vehicle - see #6.


Project Simplify - Day 4

The bad news: 

Grrr #1 - I hate it when this happens (the edge of the quilt got caught underneath while I was top-stitching and I had to take the stitches out and redo that little bit).  If this has never happened to you, I'm totally jealous.  If you know how to stop it from happening, please tell me!  It happens to me too often.

Major Grrr #2 - Not sure how this happened - probably when I had my piles lined up on my sewing table.  We would have FOR SURE noticed these two blocks with the same square of fabric next to each other while we were doing the big layout on the floor - my helper was very diligent.

The good news: 

Yay #1 - Thank you so much everyone for your advise and tips.  They really helped.

Yay #2 - I did it!  I free-motioned the entire quilt!  Wohoo!  It was so much fun, once I just relaxed and found my groove.  Apparently, part of my technique requires my tongue to copy the movement of my hands - outside my mouth.  Or for my lips to purse tightly and prevent my tongue from escaping altogether.  Who said quilting was attractive?

(One of several little oopsies that I'm daring to show you.)

While I was machining, my girls noticed right away that I was doing something different and they were quite interested.  I even had a little audience for a while, which was nice.  "It looks like you're scribbling with your sewing machine," they said.  I agreed.  It felt like I was scribbling.

But now in my house "Loops" is officially renamed as "Swirly Twirly".  THAT'S a great name.  Thanks, girls!

This block is in the last part of the quilt that I "Swirly-Twirlied" so it's much better than the first corner (above). 

It reminds me of the quilt I made when I was learning how to hand-quilt.  You can really tell which was the first block I did and which was the last. 

I like the "historical" aspect of it - seeing where I began and where I ended up.  Do you have a project (quilt or otherwise) like that lying around to remind you how much you've improved at something?

So, not exactly blue-ribbon-quality but a respectable job, if I do say so myself.   I'm happy to report that I'm encouraged by these results and can't wait to freestyle the next quilt!


Not Just a Pretty Face

Yesterday I went grocery shopping with my husband.  We never shop for groceries together.  But we really needed them and neither one of us wanted to face the Friday afternoon lineups alone.

While standing in said line he pulled out his blackberry to read my blog post and he's all,

"Dude! A video link?  You made a video?"

And I'm like, "Dude.  YouTube."

The irony becomes clear when you get just how technically incompetent I really am.

After 15 years of marriage it's nice to know I can still surprise him.


Project Simplify - Day 3

Ok.  I'm DE-TER-MINED to get this free-motion thing down.  The book just makes it seem so easy-peasy, lemon squeezy.  (Don't know what free-motion quilting is?  Here's a quick video.)

History:  I got my first sewing machine for my 15th birthday.  I loved it.  I set it up in my bedroom and used it a lot.  It was great for sewing a straight line but I could forget about reversing, buttonholes, major thickness (as in quilted bags).  At the time I didn't fully comprehend the severe limitations of my machine. 

I took a machine-quilting class (in like 1993) but my results were as crappy as my machine and I just assumed I was a genetically lousy free-motioner.  The end.  Not in the cards for me. 

In about 2004 I got a really sweet Pfaff and I went from being an "ok" sewer to ... if I may say so ... a really good one.  My machine can do almost anything I ask it to - except make my morning cup of tea :).  There is definitely something to be said for using good tools.

So when I tried free-motion again I was better than before, but not perfect.  And there's the problem (another one ... ) - I'm a perfectionist.  That DOESN'T mean I think I'm perfect.  It means I loathe not being able to do things perfectly and if I can't nail it on the first or second try, I'd rather give up.  I know, I know, totally immature and not very attractive.  But I'm working on it.  I'm trying to be ok with "my best at the time" instead of "the best or nothing at all".

Blah, blah, blah.  Enough about that.  Back to the quilt already!

In the book, this quilt is top-stitched with classic stippling.  I was introduced to it  as “dog-boning”.  I don’t know if it's the name or what (why couldn't it have been called "Feather in the Wind" or "Wandering Fairy" or even "Toddler at the Park"?), but it never really excited me.  Now loops - that's a style I can get behind!  Funny, there isn’t much difference between the two but for some reason I just prefer the look of loops.   So this is the first design I'm attempting.

I had four leftover blocks (on purpose) so I sewed them together to use for practice.  But free-motioning didn’t get off to a good start.  First, I forgot to tighten a screw and the foot fell off, breaking a needle. 

Then this ...

(Deep breath.)  It’s NEVER a good day when you need this ...

But a minor tension adjustment later and I was back on track ... sort of.

Here's a bit of my practice swatch.  (Please don't laugh too hard - you have no idea what it took for me to show you this!) 

I felt like my brain had zero control over the operation - lots of involuntary jerking & zagging - and possibly (probably) the occasional bad word.   I know my stitch length needs work.  Some places have a distinct "connect the dots" look.  I gotta get used to the concept of pedal to the metal, which according to my manual is the secret.

Clearly more practice is required. 

I hate practicing. 

(Someone please cue the violins ... )


Project Simplify - Day 2

The pattern in Chapter One calls for precuts.  In fact, all the patterns in this book are based on precuts (plus yardage).  That's part of what makes these quilts simple.

But if you don't have the specific precuts required - like me - consider making your own.  This book gives you all the measurements for standard precut sizes so if you're new to quilting or don't have easy access to them, no problem.  For me, a few extra minutes with the rotary cutter and I was good to go!

I laid out all the cut pieces and my 9 yr old helper organized the squares & strips into blocks.  We talked about print color, direction, value & scale.  This girl loves rules and when you explain why, she follows them to.the.letter.  Plus I have this mild O.C.D. thing about my quilts - I don't like it when the same prints or the same colors “touch”. 

She took her job very seriously and felt really proud of herself for doing it so well.  This mama is super proud too :)

When the blocks were made she helped me with the big layout on the dining room floor.  My little foible turned the exercise into more of a puzzle.  We had fun finding problems and trying to solve them.  (You know, when you switch two blocks to fix one layout problem, only to create another somewhere else.  And so on.)  That took us a while and in the end, we lost the battle - as I usually do.  So I explained to her that despite my silly little rule, sometimes you just gotta roll with it baby!

Next - the dreaded free-motion top-stitching ... gulp.   See you Friday!


Project Simplify - Day 1

Hello, hello!  If you missed Friday's introduction check here and you'll be up to speed :)

When I first thought about doing this project, I saw my quilts looking quite different from those in the book.  My stash has a “shabby chic” flavour.  I definitely gravitate towards soft, light fabrics.  The more pink, the better. 

But I do have a few stacks of brights and settled on this collection to make “Square One”, which is similar to the American Jane - "Snippets" used in the book.

I bought this happy fabric when it first came out in 2007.  I’m a big Susan Branch fan (fabric, patterns & scrapbooking stickers/paper/stamps) and was excited when this line came out. 

I bought almost every print and planned to make this & this – one for each of my girls.  Well, I did make the red one - for the quilt shop where I work - but then I don’t know what happened.  Guess I'd satisfied my red pinwheel craving.  (Although thanks to Carrie's post last week, I think I feel a new craving coming on!)

Love these cute little quotes on the selvedges. 

From top to bottom they read:

  • It’s believing in roses that make them bloom.
  • The strongest of all warriors are these two:  Time & Patience.
  • Creativity is really the structuring of magic.
  • No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.
  • Today, if you’re not confused, you’re just not thinking clearly.

And my personal favorite:

  • "Stay” is such a charming word in a friend’s vocabulary.

I just added it to my sidebar.  (Thank you Susan!)

In my defense, I have made a few things with this fabric.  A couple of years ago my girls were taking an art class and needed something for their pastels & charcoals etc.  So I made these little bags which have become their Nintendo DS storage/travel cases.


Every year, I make my girls a new backpack for school.  When I first started (in 2005), I was in charge of fabric selection.  But that control didn’t last long.  Soon they wanted to choose and the conversations would go something like this:

Her:   “Mommy, can I have this fabric?”

Me:  “No, I just bought that.”

Her:  “What are you going to make?”

Me:  “I don’t know yet.”

Her:  “How about this?”

Me:  “No, I have plans for that fabric.”

Her:  “This?”

Me:  “No (can’t come up with a good reason and she doesn’t understand the concept of hoarding yet).  How about this?  This is really pretty, don’t you think?

Her:  “No, I don’t like it.” 

Then we’d go to the fabric store and buy something they liked.   I think you're starting to understand why my stash is out of control ...

This year my 9 year old finally wanted this fabric for her backpack and I made a lunch bag with matching placemat too.


But that backpack & lunch kit didn’t make much of a dent.  Let’s see what making a quilt will do ... :)


"Project Simplify"

Hello & welcome to “Project Simplify” – my plan to:

  • reduce my fabric stash (& finally learn how to free-motion quilt already, I’ve only been quilting for 24 years!) as I
  • make every quilt/pillow in Simplify with my daughters so I can
  • donate (quilts & pillows, not daughters) to help raise money for non-profit organizations and hopefully
  • inspire you to reduce your fabric stash (if you want/need to) for a good cause as I
  • share my journey with you
  • Oh, and there just might be a giveaway or two!

How did I get here? 

Well, to say I’ve become borderline obsessed with Camille’s book lately is an embarrassing accuracy.  I hope you won't think I’m banana-nuts-crazy but - in the interest of full disclosure - I’ve been carrying it around with me everywhere.  (For example, when I had to take my little one to the hospital to deal with this, I wouldn’t leave the house without it – you never know how long a wait you'll have in the Emergency Dept. and I needed something pleasant to pass the time.)  I love the photography and the projects look like so much fun (and pretty, and easy). 

I met Camille at Quilt Market in Minneapolis 2010.  She’s so nice and I’ve been reading her blog since.   I’ve gotten to really like her as a mom, a quilter and a very creative person.  For me, her blog has been a source of beautiful pictures, charming tales of motherhood and general quilting loveliness.

Now, I have a problem.  Well, two.  (Ok, several.  Way too many to mention.  But only two that pertain to this conversation.)

  • I have a hard time making a quilt for myself  “just because”.  My house is too small for a prolific quilter and I’m running out of beds ... and sofas ... and closet space.
  • I’ve been “collecting” pretty fabric for a long time and have this fear of cutting it & sewing it and using it up until it’s all gone and I don’t have it anymore. Clearly this hoarding thing isn’t working for me.  I need to let my fabric fulfill its destiny by making it into quilts for people to love.

Last month I received a request for a fundraiser donation.  I quickly selected some fabric from my shelf and whipped up one of the quilts in the book.  I was done in a few days.  That felt so good – helping a worthy cause, making something from the book and using up fabric I wasn’t ever likely to use for myself. 

A few days later I found myself feeling very stressed (ok, maybe it was a hormonal PMS thing) as I faced the overwhelming task of organizing my fabric.  This is what it looked like AFTER five hours of re-folding & rearranging.  I didn't think to take a before picture.   I would have been too embarrassed to show you anyway.

Obviously, my fabric addiction is way outta hand.  There's more in those boxes, in the cupboards below and under my rather large sewing/cutting table.  Plus the shelves are deep and even more fabric is hiding in behind many of those piles.  I thought, “I reeeeeally need to get rid of some of this stuff.”  Followed by, “Maybe I should make another quilt for the fundraiser.” And then “I really want to make more quilts from Camille’s book.”  These three ideas – and having recently watched the movie “Julie & Julia” - suddenly converged into an idea:  “Project Simplify”.

So here I go.  I’m so excited.  Over the next few months I’ll be sewing my way through the book - starting with Chapter 1 - and sharing with you things like:  when & why I bought fabric, what (if anything) I’ve previously made from it, the process of making each project, the experience of including my daughters (8 & 9 ½), the finished quilts & pillows and whatever else happens along the way.


#1 - NO BUYING FABRIC.  None.  Not even a little FQ.  I must make due with what I have. 

#2 - Get over fear of free-motion quilting and just do it already!  If that means hours of practice (and I hate practicing) then so be it.  I've had it up to here with my safety-net crosshatch!  I really need to expand my top-stitching repertoire.  Seriously.

#3 - Donate at least four quilts and all four pillow covers to fundraising intitatives to raise money for causes that are important to me and/or you, dear audience.

One more thing, just for fun:  I see this project as a "stash diet".   During the marathon five hour tidy-up I was reminded of fabric is!

And as many of us know, when you go on a diet, both weight & inches are very important things to track.   It’s motivating to see results.  I think it’ll be fun to see how many pounds/kilos & yards/metres (in fabric) I use up. 

Maybe you’ll be inspired to simplify your stash and share your time & talent - as a quilter - for a good cause too.

Wish me luck and I'll see you next week with the first quilt!


And the Winner of This Quilt is ...

... the highest bidder.  That bidder could be you!

A very good friend of mine – Lani Donaldson – is hosting her 2nd Annual Fundraiser for Literacy (a cause close to my heart as a mom of a dyslexic daughter who struggled to learn how to read.  I’m happy to report that because of her experience with Beacon Literacy she’s a very active member of her Grade 4 Reading Club!).  I wanted to donate something for the Silent Auction portion of the event so here’s what I did.

As a quilter, I a) am always looking for quick patterns to make and b) have lots of fabric that’s been in my stash for far too long waiting to be made into something pretty.

I came across this fun pattern for a throw-sized quilt in my newest and favorite book (see sidebar on right).

I thought it would look great made with these beautiful Japanese prints. 

I enlisted my helper to sort the block fabrics.  She named them (L to R) “Black Leaves, Paris, Dots & Green Fern”.

Paris is my favorite – I have a thing for fabric with words, especially vintage-looking script.  (Did you notice it in my blog banner?)  I also thought it was appropriate, considering the cause. :)

And now for my embarrassing confession:  I can’t do free-motion quilting.  I took a class on it about 20 years ago, but at the time I had a really crappy sewing machine and the results were frustrating, to say the least.  I’ve never really tried since.  (If I can't do something well on the first or second try, I tend to give up.  I know, it's totally immature.)  So all my quilts are top-stitched with either a crosshatch or in-the-ditch.  That may seem kinda boring.  But in my oh-so-humble opinion, you can NEVER go wrong with the classic crosshatch.  It always reminds me of Chanel.

In the interest of using fabric economically, I (almost) always piece my backs.  It gives a quilt that one-of-a-kind touch.  In this case, I had a large piece of brown that obviously had been used for bias binding so it was missing a big corner.   Ta da!

Even though these colors aren’t typically me, I love this quintessentially Japanese palette - all earthy, natural, easy to live with colors.  My goal was to make a quilt with broad appeal to really get those bids up!

So if you want to own this original, handmade quilt please get tickets for this fabulous event and bid on it.  If this quilt isn't your thing (how could it NOT be?!), I'm sure you'll find another treasure at the auction. 

Take someone special out for a wonderful evening (May 6th, 2011).  You’ll be glad you did!

PS:  If you aren't able to attend but are interested in bidding, please leave me a comment.  I can bid on your behalf and then ship it to you!


Glass Half Full

What a five-year-old thinks about being stuck in traffic:

"Well, Mummy, at least we're not last!"

 Words to live by.


Luck of the Irish

Polka Dot fabric - Simplicity by Moda

Message pad & paper clip - Laura Ashley

Fabric yo-yo - from a scrap in my stash

Lemon-Lime Twist cupcake from Crave


She Has Other Plans For Me

Ok, I had daughters for a reason:  so I could fill my home with pretty things like this ...

and these ...

and this ...


But if she really wants this book with a creepy cover and tales of terror, who am I to deny her? 

Happy Birthday, my sweet little shark-loving, thrill-seeking ballerina.


Japan in Our Hearts

This week I was planning to share my love of Japanese Quilt/Craft books & magazines.  Instead, my family and I extend our thoughts & hearts to Japan and those affected by this tragedy.


Instantly Well Loved

I know many quilters and most have a strong opinion about whether to pre-wash fabrics before making a quilt.  I'm a "don't bother" kind of girl for two reasons:

1 - It's an extra step that requires too much time & energy (wash, dry, iron, refold …)

2 - I love quilts with that "oldy-worldy" look, even if they're brand new.  And the best (only?) way to get that look is to wash the quilt in warm and dry on high after making it with non-preshrunk fabric. 

Before ...





Note to Self #3

A fresh application of this ...

immediately followed by a few (ok, several) of these ...

equals ... embarrassing!

"Uh, Ma'am? You should go check a mirror."


Eye of the Beholder

Sometimes I catch myself thinking things like, “I have pretty garbage.”

Is that weird? 


How to Make a Seven Year Old Happy

Wait for a Saturday afternoon when the music store is closed for the weekend and then break a string on her violin while trying to tune it.  She's happy because she gets a two-day break from practicing.  She's extra happy because her mom's the one who broke it.

How do you make her mom happy?  Remind her that she was very smart to get extra rental insurance.