Spring Color

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South County Bike Path

Last weekend we took a quick trip down to southern Rhode Island to see family and enjoy some spring sunshine. South County is a beautiful place, with beaches and farms mere miles apart. There’s a bike path that stretches from one to the other that I took every day; it is one of my favorite things about the area.

I took advantage of the sunshine to photograph some recent small quilts, making quick dashes out to the yard in the brief morning minutes when the wind died down.

red patchwork quilt

I was thinking about flames when I made the red patchwork quilt, the way that they burn blue at the center and glow orange at the edges. This quilt glows! I needed to put it on a less sunny wall to capture the details of it. In full sun, without any filters, it’s blinding. It love how strong it is.

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The blue quilt is softer – literally, it’s light as a feather – but more of a puzzle. It’s made of hand-dyed indigo fabrics, half-square triangles arranged until they sat right. I like contrast of the slightly blurred block prints and jagged corners; it’s more complicated but also more subtle.

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And the bees…my first foray into paper piecing! The pattern is from Whole Circle Studio, and I spent a morning earlier this year learning how to paper piece it from Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill herself. It was humbling – who knew there were multiple ways to sew something backwards and upside down? – but the results are well worth it. I like the clean, strong lines and symmetry of this design but softened it up with a little stipple quilting.

So that’s my spring sewing! I’m knee-deep in work and writing projects, so the next time I log in here it will probably be about all things literary. Wishing you a positive and blooming spring!


Currently Reading: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (again!); A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles; Thrice the Brindled Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley 

Currently Watching: The Vampire Diaries season 2 (yes, late the the party on this one); Sherlock season 4

 

Reading Aloud

Bedtime storyWhen I was little, my father would read aloud to me and my brother almost every night. He read picture books, and poetry, and novels. Long, complicated novels, like The Hobbit and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, with distinct voices for each character. We’d sit in the old rocking armchair in the corner of the living room and listen as wizards and trolls and elves would roll out of his mouth and appear in the living room. It was decades before there was a movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings that got Golum’s voice even close to right, right being the way my father would make Golum’s voice whine and slither.

I have leather-bound copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, birthday gifts from my parents. I also have a tattered, treasured copy of When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne, dated 1925. This was the book for quieter nights, when Jonathan Jo appeared with his wheelbarrow full of surprises and the Lake King’s daughter slipped over the water lilies. My most favorite poem of all was, and still is, Halfway Down, about special places to daydream and the far-away musings of little imaginations. I know it by heart. You could stop me on the street right now and I could speak it to you.

I overheard my father reading to my kids recently and was reminded of how truly wonderful reading aloud can be, especially when you’re small and the world is wide open and the reader is someone who loves books – and you.

So now I read to my kids, picture books and poems and story books. And I wonder what they’ll remember, years from now? My version of Cars and Trucks and Things That Go? Mr K’s slapstick Henry P. Baloney? Will The Pokey Little Puppy always sound like Grandma?

What do you read aloud?

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Christmas Poems

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Dear Friends,

I hope this finds you well. We are hurtling towards Christmas here – I feel I will blink and it will be upon me. But the tree is up and the kids are excited, and I am looking forward to a very long weekend of visits with family and naps on the couch. After the presents, of course. The kids will not let me forget the presents.

a-childs-christmas-in-walesThe Boy and I read A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas the other night, the first time for him and 20th or so for me. It was late, and we were tired, so we caught an incurable case of giggles halfway through, right around when the boys pass Mr. Daniel’s lawn and debate writing mischievous things in the snow. I do love that poem! When I was in high school my father would assign us all sections to read. It’s long, but read it out loud. Mr. Prothero and the uncles are much funnier that way.

little-tree Miss R’s favorite is still little tree by e e cummings, with its sweet, quiet mood and soft, glowing illustrations. Or perhaps Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry, because of the animals and the rhyming. It depends on the day. Little tree is short enough, though, so I will include it below.

A peaceful Christmas to you all!

Love,

Kaesmene

little tree

by e e cummings

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see         i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid

look        the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
“Noel Noel”

A Maker’s Tote

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Like many of you fabric nerds aficionados out there, I ordered a whole bunch of prints from Rifle Paper Co’s first line with Cotton & Steel, Les Fleurs. They’re all beautiful but one, Bon Voyage, just charmed me.

It said, “I must be a bag. A bag that resembles luggage. With leather trim.”

Noodlehead’s Maker’s Tote was designed to resemble an old-fashioned doctor’s bag, which seemed perfect for this project, so I bought some flex foam and got to work.

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As much as I enjoy using well-made patterns, I rarely make them exactly as is and the Maker’s Tote is no exception. I liked the size, shape, and features but wanted less of a patchwork look. The first thing I did was reduce the number of different fabrics used in the bag so I could highlight that beautiful travel print. I also wanted something playful inside, so I picked a pink print that played off the pinks and corals on the exterior.

Although I had first dreamed of leather trim on this bag, it turned out to be beyond my skills given the twists and turns the binding on this bag must take. Essex Yard Dyed to the rescue! A tobacco brown gave me the leather color I wanted but was still reasonable to work with in tight quarters.

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I’m very happy with this bag! It’s roomy enough for a good-sized project but not too big, with plenty of pockets and a vintage shape.

So, one holiday project in the…ahem…bag. What’s on your sewing list?

What’s in a Name (Tag)?

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fabric name tag

A lot, it turns out.

My quilt guild asks members to wear name tags at meetings. It’s nice not to have to fumble for the name of the lovely person you chatted with two months ago, so I’m all for the tags. Then the guild took it one step further and encouraged us to make fabric name tags for ourselves. No problem, I thought, I’ll knock a name tag out in an hour some evening.

When I sat down to do this quick project I found that it was harder than I expected. My NAME is on this, first of all, so it can’t just look like any old thing. And I’d forgotten how slow teeny tiny piecing can be! Oh, and I had to find the right size and font alphabet stamps.

It was worth the trouble, though. At the next guild meeting I got a kick out of seeing how everyone handled this project – big name tags, tiny name tags, traditional patchwork name tags, PacMan name tags, embroidered name tags, you name it. (See what I did there?) Now, not only do I have a reminder of people’s names, I get a sense of their maker style, too.

I do realize, though, that everyone else is probably starting at my name wondering how on earth to pronounce “Kaesmene.”* There are some things even great fabric can’t fix.

Happy sewing!

*It’s pronounced “kez-men.” I love my name!

New Online Home

Hello! I’m glad you’re here. Welcome to my new URL, kaeseymakes.com. As you’ll see, I’ve kept the same look as the old site but will be adding some additional functionality over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, a few quick updates:

Sew Together Bag

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Sew Together Bag

This was my New Year’s project, the Sew Together Bag by Michelle at Sew Demented. After hemming and hawing over four different color combinations (brights? linen with a patchwork stripe? Liberty?), I settled on a pale gray crosshatch with an abstract arrangement of hexies featuring fussy cut Moon Bunnies from Rashida Coleman Hale’s Mochi line. I used Moon Bunnies for the lining as well.

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It was important to me to pick fabrics for this project that I wouldn’t tire of quickly. It’s a daily-use bag, holding my scissors, rotary cutters, favorite thimble, and best glass head pins. The gray crosshatch is a favorite of mine, a shade of pale gray from Joann’s own line that pairs with just about everything. I’d been saving the Moon Bunnies for something special and love how the whimsical print appears when the bag is open. Those lively little bunnies make me smile.

You’ve probably seen this bag all over Pinterest and Instagram, with good reason. It’s a great combination of practical (stores lots of stuff!), flexible (looks great in lots of colors and prints!), and cute (accordion-style! handles made out of the zippers!). It’s well worth making. It is not, however, a throw-it-together-in-an-hour project. Parts of the bag are tricky to navigate due to bulk and require patience. There are a few steps in the pattern, like sewing on the side bindings, where an additional photo or two would be helpful. You’ll also need to guess at the placement of any decoration you put on the outside of the bag. It’s not immediately obvious how much of the exterior will become the bottom of the bag. (My suggestion: any horizontal decoration should be within 1.5” to 3” from the top zippered edge of the bag.) I found a Sew Together Bag sew-along at Quilt Barn that provided helpful step-by-step photos to supplement the pattern.

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That said, this is one of those patterns that you’ll probably re-make for yourself and for gifts.  Can’t you see this in a dark linen as a man’s toiletry bag, or a cheerful oilcloth for a child’s travel art kit?

robert kaufman indigo washed cotton linen
mod apple oilcloth

 

 

(Speaking of oilcloth, did you know they make chalk oilcloth?? I just found out. Write on, wipe off. Holy moly. I see lots of smocks and aprons in my future.)

Oh, and one last word from the wise(ish): Buy those zippers a bit long. I used 12” zippers in place of the 9” ones and was able to avoid having to be precise about centering. It’s the little things.

Happy sewing!

Happy New Year!

mini zip pouches

Hello, and happy 2016 to you!

It’s been quiet around here because it’s been so busy in my brick-and-mortar world. Among other chaos, my kitchen looked like this for much of December:

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Just in case you haven’t tried it, two weeks before Thanksgiving is the perfect time to dismantle part of your kitchen. Really. There’s nothing like two looming holidays to motivate you.

Yes, that’s sarcasm. =)

Seriously, though, I’ve found that if I wait for the perfect time to start these projects they never happen. Although things have improved since the picture above – the cabinet doors are painted and back on, for starters – we have more work to do. I’ll post some before-and-after shots in (hopefully) a few weeks.

fleece infinity scarf

I did get a little bit of sewing in before Christmas, though. In November I made a dozen minky and jersey infinity scarves and lots of little zip pouches. Both are simple, quick, and satisfying projects. The scarves are the same minky-and-jersey type that have been my go-to for a few years, using minky dot from Hawthorne Threads, Pink Chalk Fabric’s pattern, and soft jersey knit. This year I picked two prints from the Skopelos line for the jersey and paired them with navy and cream minky. The tiny pouches were made with this pattern from So Sew Easy and various fabrics and zippers from my stash. I ended up making extra because the kids kept stealing them to store their treasures!

Laura Ashley country roses needlepoint

I also finished up a UFO from the 1980s. This Laura Ashley needlepoint had been stitched and rolled up in a pillowcase for decades. I finally blocked it and noticed again how pretty it is, and decided to make it into a pillow. To give it a bit more of a 21st century pop, I used a hot pink linen for the backing and trim.

I feel like 2015 finished up with some loose ends but was pretty good overall. I did a lot, which is positive, but got stuck in a few places, which means there’s room for growth. I think I’m going to adopt a simple mantra for 2016, rather than make resolutions.

How did your year wrap up? I’m curious – what was your favorite project of 2015? If you feel like it, please share a link in the comments so I can see what you’ve been up to!

Simple Sewing

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drawstring bags

 

I’ve stayed up late the last two nights sewing and sewing, watching an entire season of Broadchurch while making pretty drawstring bags. They are all different colors and sizes, some with contrast trim at the top and some without, based on this pattern. It’s satisfying, straight-forward, peaceful work, especially with a lit tree nearby and the decorations on a neighbor’s balcony cheerfully twinkling at me through the window.

I’m not doing eight quilts for Christmas this year but there will be a number of handmade gifts under the tree. I wouldn’t feel like myself if I didn’t make something. Are you making any of your gifts this year? If so, what?

 

Missouri Star

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Missouri Star pillow

My grandfather turned 96 in August. He’s a child of the Midwest, a father of eight, a Harvard Business School graduate who never went to college, the founder of the first radio station in southwestern Missouri and of Channel 38 in Boston, a former Fidelity VP who also worked for NASA, and an electronics whiz who installed and taught the use of radars for Doolittle’s Raiders.

Yes, you read that right. My grandfather has done some very interesting things in his 96 years.

When I was little I knew none of this, though. I knew that my grandfather was a vegetarian with a sweet tooth and a Christmas tree farm who could do a flip off a diving board well into his 60’s and went to church every Sunday. That he’d decide to build a two-car garage and end up with a second floor guest suite, too. That he’d always have a tree swing in the backyard for the grandkids, and that despite living in New England for half a century, he never lost the Ozark twang in his voice. And all that is pretty darn cool, too.

These days my grandfather lives half a country away. Although he tires easily, his mind is still sharp and his memories are priceless. I thought, when I went to make him something for his birthday, that I’d keep those things in mind – his sharp intellect and his connection to the past. I chose a Missouri Star block for its history and the fabrics for their evocative nature, and put them into a pillow for comfort.

Missouri Star pillow detail

The Missouri Star block is a traditional one and my grandfather immediately picked up on it; it reminded him of the quilts his mother made for friends and family. I used blues and soft grays, looking for patterns that were masculine but expressive – wheeling birds, a navy and white print that, when cut into small parts, made me think of rough grasses; pale blue and gray crosshatch like worn and well-loved shirts.

Happy birthday, Grandaddy.