Big Blossoms

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That exact lilac is sitting on my desk right now, the first I've picked of the season. It's actually my neighbor's bush that hangs over our fence. It's way in the back of their yard where they never go and I'm not even sure they know it's there. Last night we had a FROST warning. I'm so over it. It's just freezing cold and raining every single day. We broke a rainfall record for April. My car is leaking from somewhere onto the passenger-side floormat. It's perpetually wet. I had wanted to have a few girls over for pie under my apple tree. I thought of this about a month ago. I even bought a new tablecloth for the outside table. But there hasn't been one reliably clear day yet todo it. The garden is EXPLODING nevertheless. We kind of miss the show, however, as we run in our raincoats from the house to the car, trying to keep cold rain from hitting us in the face. My gosh, the flowers are so beautiful! The piiiiiiiiinks. I staunchly insist this is my favorite time of year but I won't lie I am freezing and kind of tired.

My May Tender Year design continues to be nowhere in sight, and I don't even have a drawing for it yet. It just doesn't feel like May! It feels like March. What things should I put in May? Help. I don't even have any ideas! If you're keeping up with me on these and you are waiting for May, feel free to yell at me. :| I know. I'm sorry. The days unroll in a scattering of pompoms and beads and blossom petals across the floor. I seem to be doing the bare minimum, somehow. Not sure why.

There is a month or so left of school. Amelia will go back to in-person next year. I am both happy and sad, worried and relieved. Or something. I don't know what I am. I'm trying to savor this time without simultaneously wishing it would change. I can see her growing up before my eyes. At bedtime (or actually, several hours before bedtime, as it turns out) we do our usual routine where we go upstairs (this is early, at about 6:00 p.m.) and we change into nighties and brush teeth, etc., and then I read to her like we always have. We used to snuggle on the big bed in the big pillows and read picture books from the library. But now she likes to play with this pretty fabulous Calico Critter apartment complex she set up in my bookshelves. There are several floors of rooms. It's a hive of activity. So I sit on the bed. She plays and plays and I read chapter books out loud. (Then I go downstairs and she stays up and plays. I need my mommy-TV time.) Right now we're on Anne of Green Gables. I read a chapter or two a night, editing it on the fly (there is a lot of negative adoption talk, among other things). Every night we say, worriedly, delightedly, "Oh, I cannot wait to see what trouble Anne is going to get into today!" Amelia, the child who had more homemade dresses than she could wear, is perplexed by all the talk of puffed sleeves, and Marilla's unrelenting refusal to provide: "Why doesn't she just make her a dress with puffed sleeves?" Genuinely nonplussed. :) I have not watched the newest Netflix version and Amelia has not seen any of the TV series. Not sure which one we'll watch when we finish the book. We read The Borrowers this fall and watched The Secret Life of Arietty shortly after. I didn't really like it, I remember. I didn't realize there was an actual live-action Borrowers (from 1997, apparently) but maybe I'll check out that one. I do remember liking the Megan Follows Anne series when I was younger. I've heard the Netflix one is violent? Or something? Disturbing? Maybe I'll preview it. Amelia recently finished reading the first Harry Potter book to herself, so we are all watching the movie at dinnertime, a half-hour or so at a time. It's the first "big" book that she's read alone to herself so it's been fun to wait for her to finish to watch the movie. Believe it or not, I have never read the books and I guess I had watched the first movie twenty years ago but remember almost nothing about it. My most vivid memory of anything Harry Potter–related is inadvertently going to Costco for one of the first and last times (we just have never really been Costco shoppers; the stores are really far from our house) on the Saturday morning that one of the Harry Potter books had just been released (I don't remember which book it was; probably the third or fourth) and the store was literally filled with children sitting in shopping carts — like, in the actual cart part of the cart — reading big huge Harry Potter books as their parents pushed them around and tried to stuff groceries in the cart around them. Like, fifty different shopping carts, each with a reading kid in it. Isn't that a funny image? Lol. It seemed very meta, actually, like something I could picture happening at Hogwarts itself. It was so sweet. :)

I've been trying to think of and make some props for my jewelry pictures I want to take, so I spent the weekend crocheting little things and making a big Perler bead girl. Maybe I can style them to figure out how to include them in my pictures. I really enjoy doing Perler beads! They have the same meditative quality as designing or doing cross stitch except that you can do them with your kids. We tried dyeing some white Perler beads with Rit synthetic dye, which dyes plastic buttons really well. But the dye did not strike the Perler beads nearly as well as it did the buttons so I don't know if I will try that again. The were pretty, though. But like, the red dye turned the Perlers to peach, and I couldn't get anything darker than that no matter what I did. So it's only good for certain colors. The peach was pretty, though.

Okay, better go figure out what's for lunch. Anyone else have a hard time figuring out what's for lunch? I literally never have a clue what to make.

Fooling Around with Beads Lately

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And where have a been lately, you might ask? Making jewelry. Random! I have such capricious interests and habits. Every month it's a new obsession. For the past two weeks, all I've been doing is figuring out how to make necklaces. Literally have spent hours a day very happily doing this. I have not even started my May Tender Year yet, agh. I ordered a ton of different kinds of beads on Etsy last summer. I have wanted to make necklaces absolutely forever but I could never really figure it out. Making jewelry can be kind of tricky until you figure out exactly WHAT you need. And there are a lot of choices, so this is often easier said than done. I wound up making a few different kinds of necklaces, some for adults and some for kids. Naturally, now I will be opening an Etsy shop to sell them. I go big. Make three necklaces and find yourself designing a packaging concept. Welcome to my life. These are not my fancy pictures, just stuff I snapped on my iPhone to show my friends. I need a sturdy, sunny day to take some pictures and then I will show you. The weather has been as unreliable as I have. One minute sunny, next hailing, next sunny, next raining. 

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Look at my tree. It's so beautiful it almost makes me cry. Spring is my absolute favorite time of year.

A Tender Year: April

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A Tender Year: April embroidery pattern is now available!

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This design was stitched on Kona cotton (this time in colorway Bone) and wrapped around an inexpensive 5" x 7" (13cm x 18cm) stretched canvas. (If you'd like a tutorial on wrapping canvas with embroidery, please see this page.) It uses DMC floss. The pattern includes illustrations for all the stitches included, so if you are a beginner you should have no trouble. If you'd like to stitch along with the entire series, here are the January, February, and March patterns.

Thank you so much to every single person who purchased the March design last month. One hundred percent of all sales of that pattern in March was donated to the Ukrainian Bible Church here in Fairview, Oregon, to aid in their efforts to support displaced Ukrainians with food, shelter, and medical supplies. We were able to send checks totalling $360, and I hope that it helps in some small way, though the need is still so great. I know that all of us around the world have heavy hearts over what we have seen of this terrible war, and I continue to pray for peace and relief for all Ukrainians.

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I wanted to list here my other patterns and kits that you may find pleasing for spring, in case you missed them in the past. Above is a cross-stitch design called Whan That Aprille, and it is probably my favorite thing I have ever designed. It is stitched on 32-count Wichelt linen with DMC floss.

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The Spring Wreath kit is quick to stitch, and the kit comes with everything you need, including the instructions and designs as well as the fabric, floss, framing hoop, felt backing, and ribbon for hanging. I think it would make a perfect Mother's Day present, either in kit form or already stitched and ready to hang (if I do say so myself).

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The Time of Flowers cross stitch kit is also stitched on 32-count Wichelt linen with DMC floss. I originally designed this in 2018 and it was reissued last year. It's my homage to the springtime woods of the Pacific Northwest and it makes me want to go find some sheep to visit sometime soon (anyone have any sheep nearby that want visitors? Let me know!).

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I still also have kits left for my embroidered jewelry designs, called Flower and Frond. They include everything you need to make the five pieces of jewelry, including the chains, pictured here. This is so much fun to do, and quite detailed and fiddly, and I think you will be very proud to either wear of gift these finished pieces.

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Blackberries and Heather-bells is a PDF pattern; the kits sold out long ago and were not reissued (nor will they be). This is an embroidery project done with DMC floss on Kona cotton that frames in the 6" hoop. It is done mostly with one ply of embroidery floss. It was part of the Secret Garden collection that I did several years ago. This was my inspiration post for that, and these items were what was included in the collection. That was really fun. I should do something like that again. I did find a great vintage clothes-drying rack at the antique mall over the weekend that makes me want to dye a lot of yarn so hopefully I'll get that done for sale sometime this spring or early summer. We don't have anywhere to dry yarn in the house so I need to wait until the weather warms up so I can do it outside.

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Things of Spring is, alas, not available as a kit because the original fabric that I used is discontinued by the manufacturer (32-count evenweave linen from Wichelt in Provence Lavender, though you might be able to find it in fat quarters online, I don't know). It was done with DMC floss. I still love this one and think it could be equally effective on a pretty pink or darker purple.

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And you might like this little guy, the Spring Ring pattern. It's done on 28-count linen with DMC floss and will fit into a 4" embroidery hoop to frame. Simple but with lots of color changes, so you'll be done quickly but it will hold your interest as you stitch the flower wreath. I recommend having several needles threaded with different colors and using them like crayons to do a few stitches here and there as you go around. Keep them all threaded.

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Also, I made a black calico Scarborough Fair skirt last weekend in anticipation of warmer weather soon, and I thought you might like to make one. Maybe we should do a sew-along? I've never done one so I'd have to Google how to do that, but I would be up for it. This skirt is made entirely out of rectangles that you calculate based on your own custom measurements, so you can make it in any size up to a 44" waist (and you could go bigger than that if you want it a bit less full). If you haven't made one yet, give it a try. I have four or five of them and I wear them constantly throughout the summer. Keys, wallet, and phone in the pockets and boom, you're good to go.

I do have a new cross-stitch kit that I will be ready to launch next month. It's not seasonal for once so I've been kind of lax in getting it together, but I'll sneak you a preview in a bit and see what you think. It's small and sweet and a little bit silly. :) Thank you for being here and for your orders and please let me know if you have any questions! I am sorry I am late with this!

P.S.: By the way, the snow from yesterday is entirely melted and it's like it never even happened (except for many downed trees and crushed houses/cars), but now it's supposed to snow again tomorrow!

** Thank You **

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Thank you so much for all your kind words about Clover. We read every comment and were moved to tears several times. I am so touched that there are still so many of you who remembered when we got her back in 2007 (and even those of you who remembered Audrey). I find it just so touching that people take a little moment to think about a little dog they've never met in real life, and wish her well on the next part of her journey. Thank you for doing that, and sharing that with our family. It really helped me and I am grateful for your gentle kindnesses here. Thank you.

We have been working like crazy on our yard. I was sitting in the hot tub a few mornings ago just staring out at the backyard, feeling proud of what we have done. I realized that both the front and back yards felt a bit like the secret garden. We had kind of neglected the back yard, especially. Dead leaves, dead plants in pots, yucky hydrangeas covered in old brown blossoms, broken pots. A very gnarly porch rug covered in black stuff. Empty planter boxes on the porch. A ton of crabgrass in the front borders. Almost nothing but strawberries, a few calendulas, and a forget-me-not in the raised beds in the hellstrip. I mean, it happens, over the winter. This is all pretty standard. But it had been a while since we'd really done a thorough accounting of our plants, and really tried to get nice stuff (even a few perennials) into our many pots (I counted a total of 31), and had bought compost to mulch the beds. So we started cleaning out old pots, going to the nursery to get a few things every week to plant in them, moving strawberries from the raised bed into pots in the backyard, planting the planters with stuff that will be pretty in a month or two. We ordered two yards of compost and had it delivered to the driveway, and Andy spent the weekend covering the beds in brown paper bags to keep down the weeds and topping it all off with several inches of compost. Trimming back the ornamental grasses, which have grown monstrous and probably need to be divided. Planting a few clematises to replace our big one that looks mostly dead. (They often looks mostly dead in spring before they leaf out, but this one looks particularly dead.) Amelia and I started a new hobby of constantly checking NextDoor (neighborhood app) for new postings of free plants and, when we saw something good, jumping into the car and hauling across the neighborhood to be there first (and, we often are!) So far we've gotten a clump of pink phlox, a bleeding heart, and, yesterday, a whole bunch of purple alliums! That said, you get what you pay for sometimes — by the time we got to the bleeding hearts, the plant had been completely run over by a car and was smashed to smithereens. We still took it home and planted it. I even got that darling green table for twenty dollars! So, everything was looking so pretty. The apple and dogwood trees were about to bloom. The tulips were in full flush, the daffodils were finished, the magnolia was flowering, the hydrangeas are fully leafed out. And then at 3:30 a.m. I woke up to go to the bathroom and look at this:

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SOB! Noooooooo! Oh my stars. Absolute chaos. I had heard rumors of this in the forecast but never thought it'd hit us here on the valley floor. It was literally 76 degrees three days ago! And now it's 36! We hardly get this much snow even in the middle of winter, let alone almost mid-April. So, school is canceled today, even online school for us, due to many power outages around town, and I know there are many downed big trees from the pictures I'm seeing on the news. I mean, many trees are fully leafed out or heavy with cherry blossoms or other blossoms right now so, oh my. They say we haven't seen this kind of thing in eighty years here. Quite unusual and I won't lie, I want it to melt immediately. I was absolutely and totally ready for and indulging in spring.

I have my April design for A Tender Year ready, and I just need to proofread it and then post it. I will do that tomorrow or Wednesday, I promise. I got behind in my work and Amelia got really behind in hers while Andy and I were busy with Clover, and it was a unique kind of challenge (I don't want to repeat) trying to get her caught back up. She was about eleven or twelve assignments behind and wow, that was a first. Do not recommend. Anyway, my April design is ready and has been photographed and I just need to get back in my swing. I was able to send another check (for $110 this time) to the Ukrainian Bible Church last week, so we altogether sent $360 to Ukraine for the month of March. The war continues to rage on in a horrendous way. It's just terrible. I pray for peace daily and it's just . . . absolutely heartbreaking.  I can't even find words.

I am reading The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman and it is very compelling. I am only about halfway through it. At night, I've been watching a lot of Monty and Gardener's World and also these two very light shows that I just absolutely love: One is Baby Ballroom, about little kids (and some tweens) who do ballroom dancing in England, and Old Enough!, about toddlers running their first errands in Japan. I think they are both on Netflix. If you can get a chance to watch Old Enough!, try to watch Season 1, Episode 7. Or also Episode 4. I'm only on Episode 16 myself (they're short, probably fifteen or twenty minutes each). Oh my gosssssh. I am fascinated.

XOX

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It hurts my heart to write this and tell you that Clover Meadow passed away last week. Andy took this picture of her and Agatha on the occasion of Agatha's first time in the yard just a few days before. Clover was almost fifteen years old. I know that some of you have been reading this blog that long and will remember when she was a puppy. Honestly, this is so hard to write. Amelia is sitting behind me at her desk about to start school and I'm afraid I am going to start crying again. I've been putting this off for days, hoping I won't. I am inadequate. She was the sweetest dog. The end was hard. Clover. I miss and love you. Rest in peace, my darling, sweet friend.

Spring Break

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It's spring break this week, and Amelia and I have been busy gym-shoe and other shopping for her. Shoe shopping is not what it was. I was longing for a Stride Rite or a Buster Brown, and a kindly salesman who would have had her take a seat so he could measure her foot on the metal measuring thing (because I honestly had no idea what size her feet were anymore), who would've come back with boxes of shoes and laced them up for her and then checked her toes to see how they fit, and have had her take a walk around the carpeted store for a test drive. We were hard-pressed to find an actual salesperson anywhere, even at Macy’s, on Day 1. Day 2 I printed out a kid's foot-measuring chart (turns out she's a US size 3.5 and an extra-wide width) and wound up at a massive DSW where I got her a new pair of Reebok tennis shoes and some running shoes (wow, I had no idea how expensive nice new shoes are, having bought almost everything secondhand for many years) because she wants to go jogging with her dad. She went on a carousel ride at the mall, got a Pink Drink and a cookie at Starbuck's, got a pink velour jogging suit, and picked out a new clematis for the front yard. In every moment I can feel my intentional buoyancy and yearning for “normal.” But the Target looked like a dump, crushed cereal and clothes all over the floors, and the up-escalators at the big mall were broken (well, the two we tried, anyway), and the salespeople were nowhere to be found, and these things are of course ridiculous as entire cities and millions of lives in Ukraine are laid to waste in mere days at the whim of one evil, murderous maniac. I can’t stop thinking, stupidly, helplessly, How could this be? Someone!?! My girl grows out of her clothes. Hold all of these things.

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At home, I've been sewing a lot and have made several things, none of which actually fit very well after all (ha!) and I'll probably take them (a few shirred nightgowns that are too narrow and too short, a muslin that was also too straight, a muslin that was too big in the neck) to Goodwill. I liked this top (above, photo taken after I'd washed it to shrink it a bit, though it didn't really shrink), which I made patchwork sleeves for out of some squares in the stash that were originally cut for the sawtooth star quilt I decided not to make after all. I used Simplicity pattern #9193 (this seems to be out of print; I had it in my stash) and ultimately did an FBA (full bust adjustment), which worked brilliantly and was barely difficult after all. I used this tutorial for doing one on a raglan seam. There is a 5" difference between my upper bust and my full bust (whoa) so an FBA is really necessary — so, I need to go down two patterns sizes, and match the bust measurement on the pattern sizing to my upper bust (so that the neck and shoulders and armsceyes fit), not my full bust, and then do a significant FBA (added 2.5" to the bodice front [doubled, that's 5"]). Worked like a charm! Perfectly exciting! I also added about 1.5" to each of the side seams to make the shirt more A-line in general (it's cut pretty straight, too straight for comfort in quilting cotton). Anyway, the bust on my dress form still needs about 2" to fill it out all the way to 47". I tried to stuff it with polyfill and it just looked ridiculous and also mildly terrifying. I bought some bra inserts but they were still too small [laughing]. What can I say. G cup.

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I am making this lovely cardigan in a women's size XS for Amelia out of hand-dyed (by me) Nature Spun worsted. I dyed the yarn a few weeks ago, dyed six 100g skeins with one teaspoon of Rit dye in Cocoa Brown. One teaspoon! I love the wonderful videos from Essence of Autumn yarns and this one, about dyeing solid colors, finally clued me in to adding my citric acid only after the yarn has been soaking in the dye water for a while. That slows down the dye striking, and allows you to get smoother and also lighter solid colors. It totally works. Also, kind of amazing that Cocoa Brown actually produces this luscious, warm pink, no? I am thinking about dyeing some spring colors to sell. I feel like I'm getting some really pretty colors lately. I've been knitting this sweater while bingeing Bad Vegan on Netflix (scary, eesh. Reminded me of The Tinder Swindler).

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I'm realizing I only have a week to design and complete my April design for Tender Year and I haven't even started yet, so I might be a few days late. And oops: I meant to say last time I posted, a tutorial for wrapping your canvas with embroidery is now here. I have another $92.00 to donate to Ukraine so far — thank you again, so much, for that. Andy is home tomorrow and I'll have some time to work. Our yards need some serious cleanup. It's that time of year. Things are just starting to really froth out. The sun, when it shows itself, is glowing and low in the guest-room windows at dusk. At bedtime, I face this window from down the hall. Amelia plays with a three-story Calico Critter "house" that she's set up on my bookshelves while I read The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw out loud to her (and then she reads Harry Potter, which believe it or not I've never actually read, to me). The Moorchild is probably the most intense children's chapter book I have ever read. According to my Amazon, I purchased The Moorchild in April of 2017 but we're only just reading it now (the age range says 9-12). I have no idea why I bought it or if someone suggested it to me or if I saw it somewhere, but wow. I think it's one of the most creative and evocative and emotional books I've ever read, and the writing is stellar. That said, it's kind of a brutal kids' book, to be honest. I almost sobbed while reading it yesterday (we're almost at the end) and Amelia said her heart was racing at the end of the chapter. I'm actually surprised it's a kids' book but I guess I don't know that much about kids' books, really, or why this wouldn't be a kids' book. But it's just . . . like, the general premise (it's from the perspective of a changeling) kind of just destroys my heart from the get-go, and every main character is sympathetic, and, I don't know, the story is just mesmerizing to me. It is a Newbery Honor book from 1997. Who's read this, and what did you think?

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Flower fairy wishing you a happy spring!

Deep in the Details

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Thank you from the bottom of my heart to every person who purchased A Tender Year: March embroidery pattern so far. I was able to send a check for $250 to the Ukrainian Bible Church aid fund on Tuesday and I will send another one for the balance of the total sales for this pattern at the end of the month. I am so grateful to all of you who helped with this donation. I expect that all of us are in state of utter sorrow and disbelief and helplessness over what the Ukrainian people are enduring right now. I pray for peace. I don’t know what to say or do.

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I told my sister that I had been making a lot of quilts lately. (She said, I get it. Going back to the start.) I think I have made five or six in the past couple of months so far. I've actually lost count. I haven't photographed any of them finished yet. The making is the thing for me right now. Cutting and stitching and trimming and pressing, patch after patch after patch. Patching. Stitching and pressing. I'm almost finished unearthing and then ironing every scrap of fabric that I have. I have a lot. I don't even understand how someone can have so many "scraps." As I said, a lot of them are from quilt kits we've made for Posie in the past. But I also must have sewn a lot over the past twenty years. It makes me so nostalgic. I remember literally every fabric. It's weird. I sewed so many dresses and things for Amelia, and all of that sewing and knitting saved my life then. I loved every minute of it.

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I still love it but I don't do it as much because at some point sewing started to really hurt my back. Years ago I even had an ergonomic specialist lady come out to my house and look at my sewing set-up and figure out what I was doing wrong that was causing me so much back pain when I sewed. It turned out that almost everything was too low for me, and I have a really long . . . top part of my leg. Thigh. Like, my waist is really high. I'm short-waisted but the length from my waist to my knee is really long, according to her. So we made a few adjustments, including raising my cutting table and raising the height of my chair. But to be honest, none of it really helped. Sewing still really hurt my back. I think it's because my back is weak and I don't sit up straight very often, so when I sit up straight to sew, those back-sewing muscles are pathetic. But, I just decided I didn't give a shit. I started sewing again. I've been sewing up everything in sight. And at night I put a heating pad behind my back on the sofa and . . . it actually helps. On top of that, I think the back muscles might actually be getting stronger these past few weeks. Either that or, I don't know, pain is relative anymore. It feels worth it because for the first time in a long time I have found some joy and peace in my studio. I have tried a lot of different crafts these past two years of Covid. There was clay and polymer clay and resin and jewelry making and beading and drawing and painting and tole painting and of course the usual, cross-stitch and embroidery and knitting and yarn dyeing. But lately, the sewing has been bringing me back to myself. And I want that. I want that back. I want to be in flow. I want to care about the silly little details, getting some stupid little thing just the way I want it to be, making something come together out of just some random idea, some thing that I saw that I wanted to create. I want to be deep in those things again.

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In with the stacks of the fabric there were a few blouses that I must have cut out for myself several years ago and hadn't finished for whatever reason. (I finished them today. Inspired. No pattern I can find around here for this blue top, though I know I used one. I just don’t know what it was.) I thought about my pleating machine, on a shelf in the basement, unused for many years. I suddenly wanted to get a dress form and actually use it to make some clothes for myself. Use it to drape and fit. To come up with a few basic shapes and patterns that actually fit me the way I want them to and then use them to explore some ideas that I have to make some stuff to wear this summer.

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Nothing earth-shattering but just clothes that I like and that feel like me and what I want to wear — loose clothes, peasant tops, floaty and full things, kaftans, skirts with pockets for my keys, phone, and wallet, stuff that you pull over your head, no buttons, no plackets, no facings, no zippers. Lots of things gathered on elastic. And Amelia needs clothes, too. I don't have much in the way of "apparel" fabric. I think of apparel fabric as cotton lawn or linens or cotton voiles, and I don't have much of that. But ohhh do I ever have a lot of vintage quilting fabric yardage. Ha! So I'll be the size 18 lady at the playground wearing an entire wardrobe made out of Joan Kessler and Peter Pan quilting calicos from 1983. Watch out.

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Ukraine. I pray for peace for your families and your children. May you find shelter and safety in these dark days.

A Tender Year: March

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I designed this piece a few weeks ago, when the daffodils were just starting to emerge and the threat of war against Ukraine was not yet a reality. As the days have unfolded in more and more fear, sorrow, and destruction, my heart is breaking for the people of Ukraine and their children. A Tender Year: March PDF pattern is now available and all proceeds from the sales of this pattern through the month of March will be donated to the Ukrainian Bible Church here in Fairview, Oregon, where my Ukrainian friends go to church and which is collecting funds to help Ukrainians who have been hurt and displaced by Putin's invasion. I pray for peace for these devastated families and wish you all peace and thank you sincerely for your help.

Quilt Back Details

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I loved reading all the comments on the Fluff Pouf post. Thank you! A few people did have questions about how to do the back and finish the quilt so I took some pictures last week of the green and pink quilt and thought I'd walk you through the process with me. It was really dark the day I took these photos so they're a bit dark and grainy (and I know, the hot tub in the background really adds to the effect) but hopefully you can see the things I'll be pointing out. Above is the big pile of scraps I start with when making the quilt top. I put the pile next to my sewing machine and just paw through it while looking for the next piece I want to sew.

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Here is the finished quilt top, waiting for its back.

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Here's an adorable child who loves to iron her own little pile of scraps. <3 <3 <3

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I measure the top of the quilt and then piece together a back that's just a few inches bigger on every side than the top. You don't have to go crazy and make it extra, extra big. I have been putting a strip of scraps from the same fabrics as the front and which includes a little cross-stitched patch (done on cross-stitch linen) that has my initials and the year. When I have that all together, I lay the Ikea comforter down first, lining up one of the corners with the corner of my table and letting the rest of it hang over the back. Then I put the backing down, right side up, lining up a long edge very close to one of the long edges of the comforter. We'll get to why in a minute.

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Here is the comforter and the back hanging over the back edge of the table.

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Now I lay the quilt top right-side-down on top of the back.

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If you want to have it oriented a certain way relative to the back -- if you have a definite top edge and bottom edge to your quilt top that you want to have oriented to the label patch on the back, or the patched strip, for instance -- you need to think this part through a bit, and make sure it's turned in the right direction. What's going to happen is that you will sew around all four sides through all three layers, leaving an 8"-10" opening through which you will "turn" the quilt. You want this opening to be on one of the edges of the quilt (not at a corner). I usually situate it toward the bottom (if there is one), on a "long" patch where I won't encounter any seams. See my red line above for where I plan to leave the opening on this one.

Now, this applies specifically to using the Myskgras comforter as batting: When you cut this batting, you will see that it is literally just fluff between two layers of very thin polyester webbing that they've "quilted" with straight lines in a grid maybe a foot apart. You do not really want to cut this "batting" to trim it before you've sewn around all of the edges to secure all of those layers together. Because I will have to leave an opening to turn the quilt, I situate the opening very close to a finished edge of the comforter, and you'll see -- I won't cut off the serging at that edge just where the opening is, because once I turn the quilt right-side out, I'm going to fold that edge in, along with the backing and the top, and then machine-stitch (through all three layers) that opening closed. Keep that serging intact right there so that the fluff doesn't just plouf out all over the place. We'll talk about this more in a minute. . . .

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Because first you're going to pin all the way around the edges of the top. I use straight pins, and I pin every couple of inches.

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When the first half is pinned, I let it hang over the table and do the other side. Then I drag the whole thing over to my machine. Straight pins can be a bit tricky when you're doing this, I will admit. But they are easier for me to manage than safety pins. And when I stitch all of this together, the batting is so poufy that the pins kind of sink into it, and honestly, it works for me to stitch right over the pins and take them out afterward. That may not work for you. I mean, generally, you really don't want to sew over pins with your machine -- it can be super dangerous to do that. But when there's so much bulk as there is here with this batting, the pins just sink right in. I use a walking foot on my machine and I have no problem with the fabric shifting. Leave the opening open and backstitch on either side of it.

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After everything but the opening is stitched, I trim the extra batting off. I usually leave a bit of extra backing and batting in the seam allowance -- I probably trim those with about a 1/2" extra all the way around, just for insurance. I trim the batting at the opening as you can see in the photo -- leave the serging intact at that opening edge. Once you turn the quilt, you're going to tuck all of that in and stitch the opening closed through all layers.

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Here's the quilt, mid-turning. You're going to pull everything through the opening and then get it all smoothed out. Poke your corners out gently. I do not trim the triangles off of the corners. Don't trim them. It's fine. Just turn everything right-side out.

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And here it is, just waiting for the opening to be stitched, which apparently I didn't take a picture of. But you get the gist, I think! I guess I should do a tying tutorial now, eh?

Fluff Pouf One

comments: 46

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Quite pleased with my fluff pouf!!! I decided to keep it! :) It fits right in here and is warm and soft and cozy and wrinkled and creamy and cushy and sweet. I used an Ikea Myskgras to fill it and tied it quite minimally with some Anchor perle cotton #8 that I had.

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I got a question in Instagram when I posted a picture of the top about how I did this, so I thought I'd talk a little bit about it because maybe it will encourage someone else to make a quilt who might otherwise be intimidated.

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I came from a sewing family but not a quilting family. I learned to sew at home with my mom, but she sewed clothes and not quilts. Sometime in the early 1980s we had a pattern and we were going to make a biscuit quilt out of mint green calicos and I think we even got as far as to cut everything out but then . . . I'm not sure what happened. It didn't get made. How I wish I had those squares now! The biscuit quilt is getting popular again. I saw a bunch of them on Pinterest and they are so cute.

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When I was a junior in college I lived with my two best friends off-campus in a little white house on 8 1/2 Avenue. One night an older friend came over with a patchwork quilt she had been making for her sister for Christmas. She had cut a bunch 8-inch squares of all different kinds of fabrics (cottons but also corduroys and silky stuff) and had sewn them together and had put a border on it all and it was just gorgeous. (She was an artist so her color sense was awesome.) My friends and I were all inspired and I think all three of us decided to make quilts immediately. We didn't have a rotary cutter or self-healing mat and I'm sure we wouldn't have even known that those existed. But we did have a sewing machine and scissors, and we took a piece of cardboard and cut out a big square and traced it onto the backside of fabrics with a ballpoint pen and cut out all the squares with the scissors. We didn't have money so we went to the fabric store and bought bargain fabrics and calicos from JoAnn's or whatever fabric store we had back then in the Quad Cities; I don't remember what it was called but it wasn't fancy. At some point with a school field trip for religion class I went to a fabric store in a barn (I think?) outside of Kalona, Iowa, that was owned by Amish women. It was the best fabric store I've ever been to. They had Liberty Tana Lawn, and that was the first time I'd ever seen that fabric. They had so many beautiful fabrics. They had no electricity so it was really hard to see what you were getting. One time I bought fabric (I'm pretty sure now it was Lodden) that I thought was green and when I got it outside it was dark gray. I told my roommates about it and we went back several times over the next couple of years. So our quilts had bargain-table calicos and then pieces of exquisite Liberty lawn and that just makes me smile. Isn't life funny? I never dreamed I would be doing basically the same thing, thirty years later. (I've written about this Amish fabric store — I have no idea what it was called — before and someone mentioned that it went out of business long ago.)

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Anyway, cut to thirty years later. . . .

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My scrap basket overflows. I've made many things since I moved into this house in 2000. I've made clothes for myself and my daughter and quilts and I've made bags and aprons and other random stuff to sell and I've sold kits and, I don't know . . . I've made a lot of stuff out of fabric. I have a lot of yardage, still. But I have A LOT of scraps. I have a giant basket in my office and it is filled almost to the brim. I also had three big plastic bins into which we dumped out the giant basket a few times. The plastic boxes were in the attic but Andy brought them down for me a couple of weekends ago. I hadn’t thought about them in a long time but suddenly I wanted them. It was like opening a time capsule. I borrowed my neighbor's tabletop ironing board and put it on the sofa and ironed a bunch of scraps while watching TV in the living room.

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That’s how these quilts (I've made two this week and have started a third, but these photos are of only the first one) started. I reached into the plastic box and I pulled out a scrap and I ironed it flat. Then I did it again (and again) and started building a stack. The scraps are pretty random — some of them are cray shapes that got leftover after cutting out pieces for making clothes. Some of them are strips that have one straight edge and one raw, crooked edge, and are the last, wonky cuts from the hundreds of 4.5" strips we have cut for Calicozy kits. Some are strips of other sizes. Some are just random rectangles or squares from I-don't-know-what — old projects, old quilts, stuff I've found on eBay and at estate sales, stuff someone found in their mom’s basement and sent to me. It doesn't matter what they are. I ironed them flat if they weren’t  already and just put them in a stack. I don't arrange them by size or color because I literally don't have room to store anything in a fancy way like that. It's all going back into the plastic box, ultimately — well, it's going back into the plastic box if it doesn't get "chosen" for the quilt that's about to get made.

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When I'm about to actually make a quilt, I pull out part of a stack. I start going through it, piece by piece, and picking out the fabrics that I want. Sometimes I have a color-scheme in mind (the quilt pictured here was pretty random, but one I made after it was "purples, light blues, and creams"). The one I worked on today was pinks and greens (no blues). Inevitably, they all have pink, they don't have red or most primary colors (I just don't use a lot of those colors in what I sew), they usually have a few dark patches that ground them and just . . . I don't know . . . tie them into the stuff of the rest of the house. The doorknobs, the TV screen, the fireplace. Just a little bit of dark to hold them in place and give them some depth and dimension.

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Then I will take that edited stack — and I just kind of eyeball how much I think I'll need for a quilt top (lately they've been a generous throw size, about 58" square) — and only then will I start trimming those pieces into the largest kind of rectangle or square I can get out of each piece. If it's a strip and it looks pretty even, I'll trim off the selvedges. Then I'll take that stack and throw it on the table next to my sewing machine, literally throw it, just all in a big, messy pile. To start sewing (I use cream-colored thread, or whatever's generally close to the color scheme, and I wind up a few bobbins because you need three or four to get through the whole thing), I just start looking for two smallish pieces that each have an edge that is roughly the same length. I sew those two edges together with a 1/4" seam. I'll finger-press the seam open and then look for another piece that has an edge that might work if it goes perpendicular to those two pieces. If it's a little bit bigger that's good, but if it's a little smaller I can always trim that first pair. When I get three or maybe four pieces put together this way, I'll take them over to the ironing board and press them all flat. I usually just press the seams to one side or the other, however they most want to fall.

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Do you know how to make a log cabin quilt block? I do it the way my friend Susan taught me because you do it with strips, not fussy-cut pieces. I basically put "blocks" together using the same method. That is, I sew a few pieces together, and then just keep adding strips along the side. Sew on a strip, trim it (with scissors, if it's easy enough), press it. As the block (and, just to be clear, it's not really a block in that it's not going to be square — it's just going to be a piece that gets bigger and bigger) get bigger you can trim it with your rotary cutter so that it has nice straight sides and right angles. As the piece gets bigger (maybe a third of my "target" total width, or somewhere around there), I hang it up on my wall (which is in front of my sliding-glass door — that's the only empty wall I have in my studio) and let it rest there and start another one. When I get a few pieces, I measure them and see how wide they are together.

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Once the pieces start getting bigger, you can shift them around and see how they work together. Think about whether you need a color, or a color value (dark/light) to go somewhere. Add strips or small collections of blocks to start building pieces that will be the same length, always keeping your target quilt length and width in mind. It gets a bit fussy as you get near these target measurements. You'll start doing more trimming (and your edges will get longer, so it's a bit tricky) and measuring. But before you know it, you'll have a quilt top. And you'll have very little wasted effort or fabric. Piece some stuff together from your pile and add a label in there (I cross-stitched mine, on gingham evenwweave fabric) to get a backing piece.

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After I stuff and turn and tie it, I wash it in warm water and dry it in the dryer. I like it to get all wrinkled and smooshy and soft. It gets softer as it gets older. A few people over the years have asked me about the Myskgras and whether it can go in the dryer. I have dried mine many times and it comes out perfectly fine. It is polyester, so it's not a natural material, and if that's important to you I've found that wool batting can have a similar loft and be really wonderful and warm and awesome, though you'll probably have to tie it a lot more so that it doesn't come apart inside (the label on the batting will tell you how far apart you can quilt or tie). I use comforters as batting because I'm basically making a duvet with a non-removable cover — I don't like duvet covers shifting around everywhere and I do like the simplicity of comforters.

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These are not the best pictures because I took most of them on my phone and the light has been pretty dim here lately. But you get the general idea. I'm making more and I'll have more pictures of them. If you have questions about this process just let me know and I will answer them.

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I think this is a pretty good way to use up scraps, and I also think it's a good beginning project (though, obviously the way I do it does involve already having a lot of scraps, and if you're a beginner you might not have those yet). And if you're a beginner and you want to make a different kind of quilt, or one with an actual pattern, just don't be intimidated by quilting blogs. You will see they have a lot of advice and a lot of rules and might make you feel as if you can't take a piece of cardboard and trace around it and cut out some squares with scissors and sew them together if you want to. But you can. Don’t even worry. You really can.

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Me, Martha, and Ann on 8 1/2 Avenue in Rock Island, Illinois. Taken by our friend Kurt, May of 1990.

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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