the love-letter quilt

Last summer during a week-long heat wave, I relocated my sewing setup downstairs by the air conditioner. I studied a YouTube tutorial for paper piecing, and practiced on scraps. Then I picked up my cut out triangles and started a quilt for my son.

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I made this quilt for my boy, because our world would soon be turned upside down as we welcomed a new babe into the family. I knew that a monumental adjustment would be coming his way, and I wanted him to have a tangible reminder of how much I love him. So I stitched. And stitched. And stitched.

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This is the first quilt I’ve made, and I was surprised at how many cumulative hours I spent cutting and piecing and binding. I had started out tracking the time I spent on this, and eventually abandoned that idea. Some projects are for quantifying, and this one was for feeling. Every time I sat down to work on this love letter I thought about how much love I have for my son and for my family.

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This quilt isn’t a reminder of a past when our family was three instead of four. Rather this work is an expression of love, of love that remembers, endures, and multiplies.

***

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I used the Tangelo pattern from Carolyn Friedlander. All of the prints are Cotton & Steel. The background is Kona ivory, and the backing is Carolyn Friedlander. I outsourced the actual quilting to a professional longarm quilter and am so pleased with the product. If I’m going to put so much time, money, and heart into a project, I want the quilting done well. And I don’t have a machine that can handle big quilting projects like this one.

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This project fed my soul, and Asher couldn’t be more happy with his new quilt for his bed. It’s projects like this one reaffirm the truth that sewing is service and connection and love.

PS The orange row is my favorite!

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what’s saving my life right now

These past three and a half months have been kicking my butt. And winter sometimes kicks my butt too. It’s always so easy to think about what makes life hard, but what about those small mercies that save our lives in periods of darkness or adversity or sleep deprivation?

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Monster hot chocolate. It’s no secret that I love hot cocoa. Love it. When my mom came to help me after Evelyn was born, we made this hot chocolate mix, and it’s changed my life. I’m kind of not even exaggerating. It’s positively decadent. When Evie showed signs of a dairy sensitivity, I panicked. But I’ve since discovered that cashew milk makes for really good cocoa. Every night I have a cup of cocoa, and it’s divine.

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Couch naps. Evie’s naps are not great. She’ll go down to sleep in a crib just fine, but that nap will last 45 minutes max. We compromise on real naps for the first part of the day, but come mid-afternoon I do what I need to do to maximize her sleep. And that means a couch nap. I swaddle Evelyn, surround myself with remotes, books, and devices, and cozy up on the couch for at least an hour and a half. At first these couch naps frustrated me, because I’d rather that Evie nap well in her own bed (and because I haven’t had reliable alone-time since October). But then I came to accept them. And then I came to love them. Evie will learn to nap eventually, and for now, I get to snuggle her and soak in all her babyness while I can.

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My Tula carrier. Evelyn loves to be held. But I don’t have a third arm. And I do have a toddler. Enter the Tula carrier. A couple of months ago a friend told me about Tula carriers and how they’re the structured carrier for parents who like wraps. (I tried the wrap, and it didn’t do it for me.) I wear Evie in the carrier everyday. I cook in it, I shop in it, I take walks in it. It’s pricey, but worth it. I’d be insane without it.

Podcasts. I listen to podcasts far more than I listen to music. My current favorites are Sorta Awesome, What Should I Read Next?, and The Popcast. Listening to these podcasts gives me a lifeline to other adults with grown-up interests, which is something I need on days when I hear Daniel Tiger songs nonstop.

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Vitamin-D. Oregon is rainy and cloudy and cold during the winter. And I am usually okay with it. I like having an excuse to cozy up indoors with Netflix and stretchy pants. But this year, it’s been hard, especially on Asher. So any day that isn’t raining, we like to get outside, even if just for 30 minutes. Asher has a balance bike that he rides, and I either push Evie in the stroller or wear her in my trusty Tula carrier. Intentional time outside, however brief, has been good for all of us.

What’s saving your life this winter?

I’m linking this post up with Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

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resolutions: completed, abandoned, and renewed

I fell short on many resolutions from 2015. My pregnancy rendered a few of my resolutions null and void (because of either physical or energy limitations): no pants, no embroidery module, no painted bathroom, no Jane Austen. I have a few projects that are partially finished: a quilt for Asher, my master bedroom, the kids’ room.

In rereading last year’s resolutions, however, I surprised myself with how much I actually did complete: participation in Me-Made-May, making a giant chalkboard, and whitewashing the fireplace. I even accomplished something that wasn’t on the list that I’m really proud of: I joined a sewing club through my favorite local sewing shop, Modern Domestic. 2015 was difficult in many ways, and taking such a defined step toward my own self-care has done so much for my well-being.

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I spent January mulling over what I want this next year to be. The word in the forefront of my mind is pace. My life is undergoing a thorough recalibration, and my energies need to be reallocated appropriately. So this list of “resolutions” is more a list of things that I’d like to do if I can.

:: Paint the bathroom. I do still really want to do this. That upstairs bathroom is so bad.

:: Buy a new light fixture for the dining area. Our light fixture is a dumb builder-grade one that I’ve developed less-than-lovely feelings toward. I’ve been doing soft research into the purchase and know that once I pull the trigger, I’ll be so glad.

:: Organize the garage. Our garage is a disaster. A disaster. We took advantage of the January Costco deals and bought a set of heavy-duty shelves, and the next warmish weekend we have, we are tackling that garage and making it functional. Our place is small, and we need to take advantage of all the space we have.

:: Sew pants. I don’t know what this would look like. I’m not ready to sew anything that close fitting yet for my postpartum body, but maybe toward the end of the year? Modern Domestic does offer an annual jeans class, and maybe I could take advantage of that opportunity.

:: Finish the quilt. I sewed this fabulous quilt top for Asher, but haven’t yet quilted it. I think I’m actually going to outsource this job. My machine isn’t equipped to handle a quilt as big as this one.

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:: Modern Mrs. Darcy’s reading challenge. Anne’s blog is one of my top favorites, and her second annual reading challenge is really calling to me this year. I already have books picked out for several of the categories.

 

:: 45 books. I’m reupping last year’s quantity goal. I barely missed meeting 45 books in 2015, and that’s easily attributable to having a baby. I think I can forgive myself that goal.

:: More greenery and fresh flowers. I’ve always loved keeping fresh flowers around as often as possible, and I’d like to try to find resilient houseplants to keep around.

This list does seem long, but here’s the thing: I refuse to let it be a stress. Whether I stick to it or forget it or give up on it completely is my business. What’s most important this year is that I find and maintain a peaceful balance between caring for my family and caring for myself. Almost all of these resolutions fall under the self-care category, but they will need to be in balance with my responsibilities to my husband and children.

How was your January? What resolutions do you have, if any?

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the bag of my dreams

Dear, dear readers. I’ve had this post written up for at least a week, but have held off on pressing the publish button until I got some photos of me actually wearing this bag. Those photos have yet to exist.  And I really want to share this bag with you, so I’m afraid you’ll just have to picture me wearing it. And maybe someday my brain will be less sleep deprived, and I’ll be able to think far enough ahead to coordinate blog photos of myself. Now let’s proceed!

A couple of things: 1) Getting out of the house before noon with every person presentable is a monumental feat for our family right now. 2) Now that a babe has joined our ranks, we need All the Things when we leave the house. ALL THE THINGS.

Behold, the accessory that makes sanity more attainable: the diaper bag. Specifically this diaper bag, the diaper bag. Making my own diaper bag was in the works as soon as that pregnancy test read positive. The bag I used when Asher was a baby had lived its life. I used that bag every single day for a year and a half, and it is worn out and stained. I tell you, diaper bags are the ultimate workhorse. You need a good one, and for me this time around, I needed a new one.

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This bag was the second to last project I finished before Evie was born, and 95-percent of the time it was a complete delight to work on. I spent hours researching and mulling over prints and leather sources and hardware options. Making this bag was going to be both time intensive and monetarily expensive, so I wanted it to be exactly what I wanted.

Guys, I love it. Love love love love love it: the crosses, the lambskin leather, the antique brass hardware, the modifications, the fact that this diaper bag doesn’t look like a diaper bag. It turned out just as I pictured, and it’s glorious. Without this bag I’d be a mess of a mother, and I’m not even exaggerating.

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Now for some nitty-gritty specs and technical details. I used the Colette Cooper pattern (from their Walden line). I’ve made this bag two times before (once for Josh and once for Asher), so I was familiar with the techniques and construction. I didn’t follow the pattern’s exact guidelines on main fabric and contrast fabric, but rather went piece by piece and decided where to use leather and where to use the Swiss cross. (These decisions were also heavily informed by the limited amount of leather I had.)

modifications

So, modifications. The Cooper bag wasn’t designed as a diaper bag, and diaper bags are a specific type of bag. I needed something versatile, convenient, and heavy duty. I referenced Devon’s Cooper bag throughout my own bag-making process,  and adapted many of her modifications to my own Cooper. The Cooper Companion, an ebook from Colette, was also highly helpful for this project.

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The backpack version was my base, and I used Devon’s idea of making my own quilted straps instead of using just webbing like the pattern instructed. And people, a backpack diaper bag is awesome. Especially now that I have a toddler in tow this time around, wearing my bag on my back frees up hands and and arms. It’s fabulous.

Though I wasn’t ready to relinquish the shoulder strap completely. Borrowing from both the Cooper Companion and Devon, I added a removable shoulder strap. I use both the backpack straps and the shoulder strap equally and am so glad that I have both.

I sandwiched high-density batting between the strap pieces to give them cushion and also quilted the back of the bag with the high-density batting. I like the extra support the batting gives, but it was a beast to sew.

One of the key modifications I made was to the exterior bottom panel. Whenever we go out I make sure Asher has a water bottle. The downside (that I’ve experienced way too many times) is leakage. While his current water bottles haven’t fallen victim to leaky lids yet, when Evelyn starts using a sippy cup in six months, leaking water and juice will definitely be a thing. So this bag needed a place for the water bottles and sippy cups.

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I extended the top part of the panel and then added an elastic casing to create the cup pockets. They fit Asher’s Contigo bottles perfectly.

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I maybe could have spent more time designing the best lining, but I just added more pockets, some deep and some shallow. I like the idea of an ultra-organized diaper bag, but let’s get real: Everything goes from blankets to burp cloths to wipes to toy helicopters goes in there, and when I need something I stick my arm in and hope for the best. Regardless of how many specialized pockets a bag has, I will inevitably end up with a bottomless pit.

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One pocket, however, did get special attention. While I don’t hate digging for diapers, I do loathe mining for my phone or keys or that elusive pacifier. So I extended the front pocket down to meet the bottom panel (and sewed the front bottom panel pocket shut). This front pocket is the perfect place for those small essentials that I need at my finger tips. I also added a key clip so that my key ring is always in easy reach. (I wasn’t sure if I’d really use this feature, but so far I’ve found it quite handy.)

sourcing and other notes

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I spent a little less $150 on everything for this bag, including shipping costs and supplies (I went through so many leather needles!)

Swiss cross canvas: fabric.com

Italian lambskin hide: Rolipel shop on Etsy (only $45 with shipping!)

Ripstop water-resistent lining: Rockywoods Fabric

Antique brass hardware: Hardware Elf

1.5-inch navy webbing: A Graff Supplies (Etsy)

:: A tailor’s clapper was key in sewing with the leather. I bought mine on Amazon, but you could probably use a smooth block of wood as well.

:: Topstitching thread was key in making my results professional. I bought white topstitching thread for stitching the canvas and tan thread for topstitching the leather. The topstitching thread made a world of difference in the product. (Also, placing a strip of tissue paper between the presser foot and the leather makes topstitching leather so much easier.) I also used the Bernina #5 presser foot for my edgestitching.

:: Using the right needles was essential. I went through at least a whole pack of leather needles and used heavy-duty needles for the rest of the sewing.

:: If you want to sew your own bag–especially if you’ll be working with leather–take your time. Because this bag was such an important project to me (and because of the money I’d invested in the materials) I went slowly. Very slowly.

:: Once I was completely finished, I weatherproofed the bag all over with the spray you can buy for shoes. I live in a very wet place, and I am so glad I did this. I’d hate for that dreamy leather to be ruined after one run through a rainy Costco parking lot.

I think this bag and I have a bright future together. We’re a team, this bag and I, and perhaps I can do this mom-0f-two thing after all.

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the baby lady

First things first: the Baby Lady.

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Evelyn Jane was born early in the morning on October 25. We’ve spent the past two weeks snuggling and kissing and caring for this sweet babe of ours and adjusting to being a family of four.

I actually completed a fair amount of sewing in the few weeks leading up to Evie’s birth, and I’m excited to share a couple of projects with you soon.

I also have a few projects that I want to start on, but I’ll have to pace my creative sewing aspirations with my adjustment to this new life as a mom of two. (My first post-pregnancy make will probably have to be the newest Colette pattern: the Wren dress. It’s absolutely perfect for nursing!)

Expect at least a couple of posts over the next few weeks, because I have missed this space. I have a diaper bag to show off after all!

PS Through Sunday, November 8, Sewaholic is having a buy-one-get-one sale on all their printed patterns! I jumped on the sale yesterday and bought Granville (which I’ve been coveting ever since its release at the beginning of the year) and Fraser. It’s a no-brainer!

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