This quilt was a while in the making. The right yellow had to be found, and then the right pattern had to be drafted. Once pieced, it sat for several weeks while I hemmed and hawed about how to quilt it. It’s the first quilt I’ve made just for me and I’m glad I took my time with it.
The top and back are entirely made up of linen/cotton blends: The prints are from the Sunshine Cotton Linen line by Dena Fishbein and the white is Robert Kaufman Essex Linen. I used Aurifil 50 weight to do the piecing (my first Aurifil project!) and was happy with how smoothly the piecing went.
I hand quilted this project using a double petal-shaped design of my own musing. Jan at Heath Hen provided much needed encouragement and steered me towards some excellent hand quilting needles by Roxanne. (Thanks, Jan!) I made a few discoveries along the way, too: 1) Thimbles and I don’t like each other, despite the fact that I find them so appealing to look at. I had some luck with sticky dot leather pads but ultimately the best thing for me was to just develop a callous on my finger tip. 2) Hoops are useful. I tried working with and without a hoop; I prefer the hoop. 3) Hand quilting thread pulls nicely through quilt layers but comes in a limited range of colors. The perfect pale yellow only came in embroidery thread, so that’s what I used. It still came out just fine.
The binding took exactly one episode of Endeavour to finish. I love doing bindings. It’s the home stretch, and there’s something peaceful about hand-finishing the back.
So there it is, my Ray of Sunshine quilt. It makes me smile every time I look at it.
This is what the current stack of books looks like:
Yep, still reading.
I did break for some sewing last week, a small quilt top of sunny yellows and whites. It’s pin basted; now I just need to decide how to quilt it. I’m stumped. I’m waiting for a stroke of genius to kick in.
Back to that stack of books.
I’ve read more in recent weeks than I can write about in one sitting, so I’ll pick two and hope to get to the rest in due time. I’m really enjoying myself. I’ve discovered some new things, and rediscovered old ones, and am generally relishing this deep dive into fiction.
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So. This was the book at the bottom of the first library pile that I put off reading, not sure I really wanted to go along with Zusak to WWII Germany. The first chapter of this book made me sit up and pay attention, though, pulling me right into the story whether I wanted to go there or not.
Death narrates The Book Thief, blunt and unsentimental but also weary and at times gentle. It’s Death’s voice, his unusual and sometimes lyrical descriptive choices and unflinching perspective, that gives this book such power. It’s also the book’s weakness – at times Death’s creative adjectives seem too forced and he goes on too long.
Then again, who wishes to hurry Death? I suppose he can take as much time as he likes.
Liesel arrives in Molching a shell-shocked foster child, days after the death of her brother and uncomprehending of the sacrifice her mother has just made. She’s taken in by the gentle Hans Hubermann and his foul-mouthed wife Rosa, who grow to love the skittish child and try to give her a secure home and an education even as they struggle to survive in Nazi Germany. Liesel makes a few friends and haphazardly acquires her first books, while the city around her becomes more and more torn apart by the war and her foster parents shelter a terrified Jew in their basement.
What sticks with me most, a few weeks out from reading The Book Thief, is that I forgot which side I was on as I read. Yes, this is WWII Germany and Liesel’s neighbors are members of the Nazi Party. But Death is impartial as he plucks souls from battered bodies on both sides of the front. Tragedy comes to Molching just as surely as it does to London or Paris.
The Book Thief is a snapshot of a child’s survival in a brutal war, flawed but stunning nonetheless.
When I wrote earlier that I’d rediscovered some things, this is what I was talking about. Not the story itself, although it’s wonderful, but the way of it – the straight-forward and plain-spoken storytelling that illuminates without drawing attention to itself. This is my type of story.
Dicey’s Song is one of a series of books about the four Tillerman children, who have made their way from the tip of Cape Cod to the shores of Maryland after their mother abandons them and is later located in a psychiatric hospital. They’ve enrolled in school and are living with their prickly grandmother, and settling in to an actual home is harder for Dicey and her younger siblings than she imagined it could be.
Dicey is a brave child, and practical, with a strong sense of responsibility for her siblings. She recognizes bullshit and goodness in adults in equal measure. She is not welcoming – at all – but she is smart, and she cautiously lets a few people inside her defenses. She is, probably, a younger version of her grandmother. Gram, fiercely independent and eccentric, takes on four grandchildren out of the blue with her own peculiar and reluctant sort of grace, tackling everything from a cut throat playground game of marbles to the state wellfare agency as she carves out a home life for the young Tillermans.
This is hopeful book, despite the hardships Dicey and her family endure. They are poor, there are struggles at school, and there is no happy ending for Dicey’s mother. But for every blow dealt, there is the promise of support at home, a friend made, an unexpected kindness.
Voight beautifully shapes Dicey’s world on the Maryland shore and crafts distinct and engaging characters, right down to the slow but affable grocer who employs Dicey. The direct language of the book flows straight from Dicey’s practical, introspective voice and does not miss a step.
Last Friday the Kindergarten Quilt went off to its new home. It was a great day and I am so grateful for all the support and enthusiasm this project has received.
That’s me in the pink sweater. (Yes, the quilt is taller than I am!) I took the quilt to the classrooms so the kids could find their squares and get a close look at how the whole thing came together. The kids were fun and funny, reaching up to touch what they saw and exclaiming over their own drawings and those of others. “Look, my penguin!” “Hey, a boat!” “I can see my friend’s name!” “Is that Elsa from Frozen??”
After the kids had a chance to visit with the quilt, we turned it over to hospital staff. Three good folks came from the maternity and newborn care unit to meet the kids and they couldn’t have been sweeter. They talked about the quilt and where it would go, and also why it would make a difference to the parents and hospital staff who would see it. And then they sang “A Ram Sam Sam” with the kids. It was totally unplanned and completely priceless.
Whew. So it’s done. I felt a little odd walking out the door without the bundle of fabric I’ve been toting around for weeks but this is good. Saturday I went to the library and picked out two new mysteries, and my only project this week is to read. No sewing. I know by week’s end I’ll be thinking about thread but for now it’s just me and a good book or three. I went for variety – has anyone read The Luminaries or Through the Evil Days or The Ghosts of Tupleo Landing?
I’ve been looking forward to sharing this project for a while now! Last fall I started planning a quilt project involving The Boy’s entire kindergarten class. The plan: Have each child draw a picture of something that makes them happy on an 8″x 8″ piece of fabric, and turn those 60-plus fabric squares into a quilt to brighten a wall at the local hospital.
By the end of February I had a big stack of wonderful, bright, sweet, and funny children’s drawings. Penguins, pets, grandparents, rainbows, flowers, smiley faces, basketballs, boats, elephants, and ice cream cones made their way onto the fabric.
The children suggested rainbow colors for the pattern, which was easily accomplished with the big stack of fabric generously donated by the good folks at Hawthorne Threads. Donations from parents paid for the batting and backing and thread.
The quilt is made up for 64 fabric squares joined by 1″ strips of various prints, running in rainbow order from corner to corner. It’s a big quilt, just under 6′ square! The hospital is picking it up on Friday, at which point it will live at the entrance to the special care nursery. I hope it will brighten other people’s days as much as it has brightened mine!
A few weeks ago I found an adorable fox knit on Girl Charlee and knew that it would be perfect for a lightweight summer dress for my animal-loving girl. After searching around for the right pattern*, I landed on this one from Crafterhours. It was exactly what I was looking for – simple but with a little detail and room for a busy little body to move and grow.
I washed up the fabric, downloaded the pattern, and had a dress by the end of the evening. (I sized up to make sure it still fits at the end of the summer.) I added topstitching at the neck, arm holes, and back seam to keep the seam allowances flat.
The dress was a hit! Miss R spent the next day and night in it. Turns out it’s not a bad nightgown, too.
So about that opening picture: I asked Mr. K to photoshop our girl into a new environment because the original background was too distracting (aka, the living room was a disaster area). He came up with a forest right out of Lord of the Rings. Yep, that’s my guy.
Wonderful weekend wishes to you all —
*There are many cute patterns out there that are designed for woven fabrics but I was surprised to find so few for knits. Some patterns can be adapted, but many can’t because they don’t account for the stretch that a knit provides. Just something to keep in mind if you have your heart set on a particular knit!
My aunt Donna once told me that life is what happens when you’re making other plans. While I’ve heard that bit of wisdom a few times since, I like to think of my thoughtful southern aunt saying it and I repeated it to myself all last week while down and out with the flu. It made me feel a little better about all those other plans slipping through my fingers while I lay on the couch and willed my toes to stop aching.
Now that I’m on my feet again, I thought I’d get back into the groove here with bits and pieces from recent weeks, small projects captured with a picture or two that were sitting neglected in my camera.
Yes, more infinity scarves! These are made with some beautiful Liberty Tana Lawn that I found at Gather Here. I used the same Pink Chalk pattern for these spring infinities as I did for my winter ones.
For my niece, a two-doll (or animal) tote, in pink and purple as requested. The tote is sized generously for her American Girl dolls. I used quilt batting instead of interfacing to give the sides some extra substance but still keep the whole thing soft and easy to roll up and put away. The fabrics are basic quilting cottons from Joann’s and the pattern is my own. It’s a basic tote construction with diagonal straps that run under the bottom of the bag and a lining that is dropped in and topstitched into place. It’s very purple but pretty cute, and I hope she’ll love it.
Have I ever mentioned that we have a lot of Legos around here? No? We do. I love Legos; too many is fine by me. To avoid the trauma of having a new creation smashed during cleanup or by a sibling, though, I made each child a tray for storing precious constructions. I took a 10″ x 10″ Lego base piece and reassembled it to fit into the bottom of an 8.5″ x 11″ cardboard office tray from Target. (To cut the base pieces, score them on the back with a craft knife and then gently snap them along the scored line.) I used a generous amount of Fabri-tac glue to attach the base pieces, weighing them down with books to make sure they stayed flat while they dried. So far they’ve held up well and I’m enjoying the rotating gallery of creations that land in the trays.
At some point in February, during one of our weekly snowstorms, I made this batch of banana muffins. I like to think that they’re slightly healthy because they have oatmeal in them! I always use Ina Garten’s banana crunch muffin recipe but I cut the generously sized recipe in half, ditch the walnuts and optional banana chips, and use plain rolled oats instead of granola. They are Miss R’s favorite.
(The tea is Lady Grey, if anyone is wondering. Also Miss R’s favorite.)
Now, on to March! I have a big quilt project that I’m looking forward to sharing in a few weeks. In like a lion…..
Back in September, I raved here about Code Name Verity. My post prompted a conversation with a friend who didn’t love the book so much – she found some of the war scenes difficult to take. She had the same (legitimate) trouble with another favorite of mine, Briar Rose by Jane Yolen, which weaves together WWII concentration camps and Sleeping Beauty. And this led to a discussion of modern fairy tales.
I have a soft spot for these stories. They turn the old formulas on their heads, set ancient tales in recent decades, look through the eyes of minor characters, or alter the backstory. They can empower passive characters, humanize evil ones, and expose the weaknesses in our assumptions. For my friend, I recommended Newbury honor winner Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine and two by Robin McKinley, The Hero and the Crown, winner of the Newbury Award, and Rose Daughter. Maybe when I’m through with this stack from the library, I can recommend a few more.
I was thinking about all of this as I pieced together a doll quilt from the scraps of Miss R’s Rainbow Windowpane quilt. This one feels fairy tale-ish to me. I’m not sure if it’s the paths made by the striped fabric, the whimsical quilting, or the colorful patchwork, but it feels like a quilt for a scrappy little princess. So much so, in fact, that I decided to name it that. Here’s the Scrappy Little Princess doll quilt.
The fabrics are a mix of Kona cotton in White, various Happy Go Lucky prints by Bonnie & Camille, and some DS Quilt prints from Joann’s. The striped fabric is from Kumari Gardens by Dena Fishbein.
Two cuties, for my two cuties.
The bag is for my girl who loves to carry her precious things with her; the box is for my boy who likes to stash his treasures in a special spot.
Both projects use fused fabric scraps and reverse applique. The box is based loosely on this tutorial from Janome; the bag is my own design. (Pattern to come!)
I’m looking forward to adding treats and cards and leaving this out very early on the morning of the 15th! Is there a Valentine’s Mouse? No? Well, now there is.