Thursday, June 30, 2011

Making my mark

It's always a bit of a dilemma. I love gadgets. Anything that might make things easier or more efficient or improve the quality of my craft is always intriguing. But I've also been a bit disappointed when whatever nifty tool I've picked up doesn't actually make things easier, more efficient, or improve the quality of my craft. Hmphf.

As a result, I find myself fairly skeptical. This especially holds true when it comes to marking my projects for quilting. I've used a variety of products with some success such as air or water soluble marking pens, tape, and chalk. These have all been acceptable in various applications and not so great in others.

One tool I really REALLY like though, is my hera marker.

The first time I saw one of these I was all, "Yeah, right. There is no way that will never work for marking a quilt top." Then I tried it and WOW. It's amazing.

I love that it doesn't make a permanent mark on the fabric and because of the pressure being made in the material it actually gives you some sense of the depth that the quilting will create.

So, if you've never tried a hera marker before, give it a go and see if it works as well for you!

Monday, June 27, 2011


As I sit here on this beautiful summer evening, kids running through the sprinkler after dinner and a happy lazy cat at my side, I cannot shake a bit of discontent that grabbed hold of me over the weekend.

The Sunday paper is usually chock full of advertisements, most of which I don't even really look at. However, Owen's new school requires a uniform so I have been glancing through the Sears ad because I know they carry the requisite pants and shirts. That's when I ran across this:

I had to take a closer look. Do you see that?

A king size quilt at an "everyday" price of less than twenty dollars. And the picture depicts these quilts:

I have been struggling with my own reaction to this advertisement for many reasons.

As someone who enjoys the creative outlet of sewing and quilting, it disturbs me to think that there are some (likely many) people who are being led to believe that a king size quilt costs only twenty bucks. For those of us who enjoy sewing and quilting (and cough fabric hoarding cough), we know that we would be hard pressed to purchase enough fabric for a king size quilt for that price, let alone the batting and thread. And perhaps most importantly: our time.

Granted, the quality of these quilts is probably not all that great. The material is likely not "quilt store quality" and the workmanship is surely not what I would expect from a handcrafted item. But for many people this will be their experience of a quilt.

On the one hand, it's great that so many people can afford to add a quilt to their lives. But it does make me wonder about the very real people who are manufacturing these quilts. If companies are able to sell the quilts for twenty dollars and they are still making a profit then what are the workers taking home?

Then there is the dilemma that many of us face, which is how do I value my own work? I know this is something that I struggle with. I have a teeny tiny etsy shop and I struggle with pricing every time I list something. I wonder if I am expected to compete with large stores carrying mass produced items. If I can go to ABC Store and get a little zippered makeup pouch for $4.99 (or less), how can I possibly expect to charge $15 for my handmade patchwork version? Is the average consumer going to understand the time involved? Or the fact that I used some prized rare Japanese fabrics? Will they notice the care that was taken or the attention to detail? I just don't know.

For me, this type of thinking tends to make me undervalue my work. I have a hard time asking a fair price for something because I get stuck between wanting to be fairly compensated for my time and talent and wanting to make sure I can actually sell whatever it is.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to educating both consumers and crafters. Not only do consumers need to understand what is really involved in creating a handmade item (from quality materials to the time and expertise involved in making the item) but artists and crafters also need to not sell themselves short. The work that we do is worthwhile. In a world that is overrun with stuff, a world that is constantly evolving into sameness (the same big box stores, the same chain restaurants, the same clothing chains, the same grocery stores), the ability to be truly unique is a dying art.

Handmade items are a reflection of the person who made them, not the factory that produced them. Practically speaking, how do we educate people about our art and craft? When millions of people see an ad for a twenty dollar king size quilt, how do they learn the value of a beautifully crafted handmade quilt if it costs hundreds? How do artists and crafters learn to value their work so that they no longer feel compelled to pay themselves little to nothing for their efforts?

These are the thoughts swirling around my head on this beautiful evening. What are your thoughts?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer Sewing

If you remember, my sewing space is also our guest bedroom. My husband's sister is visiting us for a bit so I've finally devoted some time to hand sewing my Hope Valley hexies!

I especially enjoy having a project like this when the weather is good enough to be outside because that means I can work on it while the kids are running around the yard like the insane energy freaks that they really are.

Originally, I was planning on making a little drawstring pouch/bag/purse with these but I really like them all laid out flat so I may switch things up and make a table runner instead.

It's been a lot of fun watching all the little hexies play so nicely together. And stitching them up is going much faster than I thought it would.

And I'm such a dork that I even love the messy backs.

What are you sewing up this summer?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Solids challenge - received!

Remember awhile back when I posted about my first paper-pieced block? It went into the solids challenge swap at Portland Modern Quilt Guild and this is the pillow cover I got back!

Isn't it fantastic?! My friend, Petra got the block in the swap and made this gorgeous pillow cover. I can't believe I didn't take a picture of the back but it's Alexander Henry Heath in gray and some amazing gray and orange buttons.

And check out Petra's crazy awesome quilting:

I know I'm gushing but I just love it to bits and am so happy to have it on a chair in my sewing room so I can see it every day!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer toes

Don't know if summer will ever really arrive here in the Pacific Northwest but my toes are ready just in case! Behold the results of my first ever pedicure:

My feet feel all dressed up for sparkly fun. Now if the sun would just cooperate.

If you've never had a pedicure, I highly recommend one. And if you can go with some truly stellar friends, all the better!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sewing with knits

First off, let me just say that this is not a sponsored post or anything like that. I went out and purchased a pattern, sewed it up, and want to share my experience.

Okay, that said.... I LOVE THIS PATTERN! It's the Tee for Two from Patterns by Figgy's and it is awesome! Shelly Figueroa is the person behind this company and she's a fellow Portlander.

The Tee for Two pattern is perfect for a beginner sewist and ideal if you're nervous or intimidated about sewing with knits. It's perfect for boys or girls and comes in a wide range of sizes. Best of all - even though I do happen to have a serger, you can make the shirt or dress using your regular home sewing machine!

There are three sleeve options (long, short, and a fluttery cap sleeve) that can be used on either the shirt or dress and you can use all one fabric or mix it up.

This shirt was my very first attempt. I was using knit remnants that I've been saving and used the fluttery sleeve option because that's what worked. I LOVE the raw edge raglan look and since knits don't fray, there's no hemming of the sleeves or bottom of the shirt. Seriously, this pattern comes together so fast it's ridiculous!

And here's the dress version with long sleeves. Miss B picked out the print fabric one day and I had enough to make this dress as well as sleeves for another shirt. I think there's one more dress in the immediate future (and probably some shirts for Owen) and then I'll get back to working on other things.

So, if you're new to sewing with knits or nervous about trying it out, give this pattern a go!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Forty three

Yup. I went and had a birthday yesterday.

So, this is me right now.

Feeling good. Generally happy. Grateful for friends and family. Ready to see what the next year of life will bring.

Spent a lovely quiet day with the family. And spent some quality time sewing up a few things that I'll show you soon!

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Perspective

I've been feeling a little - okay a LOT - stuck lately. I had a burst of energy when working on the Spicing Up the Kitchen swap but

It's not that I don't have a million projects waiting to be started. It's not like I don't have an INSANE amount of fabric staring at me, taunting me, daring me to do something creative. And it's not like I don't find inspiration all around.

What I don't have is a lot of time. Two little ones need constant care and attention and, apparently, FOOD. My three year old is eating like a lumberjack these days so I'm sure she'll be outgrowing all her clothes and shooting up another inch or two any minute now.

And I don't want to sound all whiny and ungrateful - because I know that I am terribly fortunate to have my own creative space - but my sewing area was a total pigsty. Some people can be very creative amidst chaos. And while I don't mind a certain level of mess while I'm in throes of something, I don't work well when the chaos seems never-ending.

So... over the weekend my hubs took the kiddos for a hike in the woods and I got busy. The whole space was reorganized and spruced up. Furniture was moved. A lot of stuff was *gasp*folded and put away. A lot of stuff was set aside to donate. And yes, a lot of stuff found it's way into a huge garbage bag.

You can see that my sewing area shares a room with our guest bed.

The design wall.

Sewing machines.

And this is what kept the kids busy while I worked - my scraps and an empty design wall. They were so proud of themselves.

It feels fantastic!

It feels liberating!

It feels like I can get creative again. And that is exciting!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I've been busy making a few little goodies for my partner in the Spicing Up the Kitchen swap over on Flickr.

This is what that pile of stuff from last time has turned into.

There are a couple of linen kitchen towels and a little fabric basket from the tutorial over on Pink Penguin.

Both towels feature an applique from one of my favorite Kumiko Fujita fabrics. Sometimes I purchase a fabric like this because I just fall in love with it but then I struggle with how to use it. This seemed like a nice way to feature a couple of pieces.

The texty black bias tape was made from the new Lakehouse line Annie's Farm Stand. After receiving an order of it I was completely smitten and turned right around to order more.

The other towel has a patchwork border made up of some of my favorite kitchen/food/dots prints.

I have one more towel in the works but it's not quite finished yet. These were so much fun to make! I hope my secret partner enjoys using them as much as I enjoyed making them.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Swap Stuff

After seeing all the cool stuff that came out of the first round, I decided to join the Spicing Up the Kitchen swap over on flickr. This is what I've gathered together so far.

We've all been assigned our secret partners and now is the time when we all try to figure out what that partner will like based on a questionnaire that was filled out when we all joined as well as a mosaic of favorite items that they've posted to the group.

I could go a couple of ways with the inspiration that my partner has provided but I hope she likes these goodies (linen, some favorite kitchen-y prints, a texty bias tape that I made the other day). But in all honesty, this is right up my own alley!

I'll give the ideas a few more days to roll around in my brain before I start stitching. Can't wait to show the finished project when it's all done!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Desperately Seeking...

Patchwork Patterns 318 by Kumiko Fujita. ISBN: 4-579-11078-1

Out of print. Boo hoo.

If anyone has any leads on getting a copy of this book I would love you forever.