I’ve done very little to document life during the last ten weeks besides just regular posts/stories on Instagram. But the one thing that I can look at and remember these weeks will be this quilt. My local Modern Quilt Guild challenged us with a Quilt Along at the onset of the lockdown and I was all in…but with parameters.
My initial goal was to make the quilt top out of fabrics in my stash. The pattern we used had pretty extensive sashing/background fabric so I only had one fabric with enough yardage to make that happen. This dictated the rest of the colorways. Because the background was going to be this crazy orange fabric, I knew that I wanted to pull in fabrics that had at least some oranges in them. I also wanted some solids – of which I have very little in my current stash so it was definitely a challenge!
The quilt top came together pretty quickly and was probably one of the most enjoyable tops I’ve put together. Then it just sat in my drawer waiting for me to figure out the back…and to buy some batting. I spent at least two weeks trying to decide on a back and all the while online fabric shops became busier and busier and their stock was just diminishing; along with shipping times becoming crazy long. I went back to my stash to see what I could piece together for the back and found this little bit of yardage left from probably 15+ years ago and decided to make it work.
I pulled some solids for some half square triangles along the sides and had enough of this purple for the top. I don’t love the back, but honestly I knew from the beginning this was going to be a “scrappy quilt” so I just let it go.
But I was left with the issue of batting. I couldn’t get my hands on any without a super long wait. Then I saw an instagram post from Matthew Boudreaux (aka @MisterDomestic) on #frankenbatting and I was all in. I knew I had enough batting scraps to piece enough together and at this point I decided that if I was going to do a quarantine quilt – this was the way to do it.
And then it was finished! I’m super happy with it and honestly if I wanted a reminder of these last 10 weeks (and just the general state of things in general) this would be the reminder I want to have.
I’m trying to be organized in my garment sewing life now. I’m working hard on using up fabric that I’ve got in house and also sewing things that are repeats or things that I actually think I’ll wear. I’ve had so many sewing fails in the past that I’m quickly realizing the things that will 1) be flattering on myself and 2) I can actually make and 3) I will actually make without screaming. I recently cut out three shirts all at the same time and spent the last couple of days stitching them up. Each of these three tops are repeats and each of them fit fabulously and feel amazing on. Bring on the warmer weather!
This is the only thing I’ve made from this book, but I loved the first shirt so much that when I bought this cotton I knew quickly that it was the top I wanted to make again. My original shirt was with 3/4 length sleeves, but this time around I didn’t have enough fabric so I opted for View A which has cap sleeves. It is a pretty straightforward pattern to sew and has a very beautiful finish on the inside, but I struggled a lot with the cap sleeves hem.
The directions say to fold in 1/8 and then 1/8 again and then when you stitch up the sides you go all the way around. I don’t know if I was reading it wrong or what, but after trying a couple times I realized that this wasn’t going to work. I had enough fabric left to cut some one inch strips and I made some bias facing. Honestly, this is the way to go. It’s much simpler and gives a much more finished look on the inside. I sewed up the sides after putting the facings on. This top is fabulous and I’m so ready for the weather to get warmer so I can wear it!
The fabric is Charley Harper for Birch Organics called Summer, Moth Flight. I was buying some other fabric via Fabricworm for a quilt back and snatched up a yard or so of this because Luna Moths are my total jive. I’ve heard it’s sold out from the manufacturer…so good for me for splurging!
This is my second Strata top and just like with the first one, I’m shocked by how simple and quick it is. I fudged up on this one and while trying to serge a seam I never should have, my serger nicked a little in the underarm sleeves. You can’t tell when wearing and I fixed it as much as I could, but it was such a tiny mistake I just kept going. This is a super fun shirt, but both times I’ve made it I wished I had enough fabric to make it a little longer. It rises a little too much in the front for me to make me totally comfortable wearing it without anything under it. Next time I’m 100% going to try to lengthen it just a couple inches. Sew Liberated just released an updated version of this with better instructions and more sizes. I highly recommend it.
The fabric is a print by Alison Glass that I bought locally. Again a yard or so that I just “had to have” when I was at the local quilt shop buying some quilt stuff. Gets me every time.
This is my third Plantain and probably the best one I’ve sewn yet. Some of it has to do with the knit I’ve used in the past – good knit makes a HUGE difference for sure. The first one is a little too short, but it’s fine. The second one the knit was awful and shrunk bunches so I passed it one, this one feels divine. This is a fabulous tee shirt pattern and every time I sew it I really wonder why in the world I buy cheap tee shirts when I can totally stitch them up in an hour.
The fabric is Jenny Ronen for Birch Organic Fabrics, Forest Daisies and you will laugh but it was a couple yards I threw in the basket when I made an order from Fabricworm. I have issues.
I haven’t updated this space for a while, although I’ve been busy with lots of things. I’ve been sewing a lot (garments and quilts – not embroidery) and I’ve been reading a lot and keeping up with my kids homeschooling (which we do normally anyway – we aren’t “crisis-homeschooling”) Instead of my reading life and writing life being a refuge, I feel like it just becomes something I am flitting to. These days seem so off and weird and my ability to focus just moves from one thing to another, but never really stays strong in place. Nevertheless, here’s an update on my reading life. Maybe one day this week I’ll get around to an update on my making life too.
To Kill a Mockingbird – for at least the third time in my life. I’m reading it as part of a writing class I’m taking.
Bread and Wine: Easter Readings for Lent – I’ve read portions of this before and I actually forgot I had this book until about half-way through Lent. It carries on into Eastertide also, so I’m hoping to continue reading through it
1493 for Young People: From Columbus’s Voyage to Globalization – I’m reading this along with my son and it’s really interesting. It’s long been on my “to-read” list when planning curriculum and I’m so glad I finally broke down and bought it and added it. We are both really enjoying it
The Deadliest Monster: A Christian Introduction to Worldviews – This book takes the stories of Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde and looks at them from a worldview sort of standpoint. I’m sort of on the fence with how I feel about this. I’m reading this with my son for school and we are only 3 chapters in so the jury is still out.
One Race One Blood – another I’m reading along with my son for school and I actually really do like this book. It’s a really interesting explanation on evolution and racism from a Christian/creationist perspective. I wish I would have read it last year when I was teaching a class about evolution v. creationism.
Out of the Silent Planet – we are very slowly reading this aloud as a family. It’s filled with huge vocabulary words (thanks to the philologist Lewis) and it’s about as radically different from Narnia as you could possibly get. I’m not sure if I like it or not. I have heard that the other books in the trilogy are much better.
Joan of Arc – (Twain’s version) I’m reading this along with my daughter and I really like it, she not so much. I honestly don’t read a lot of biographies and this one has always come highly recommended. Twain is such an interesting writer and he doesn’t disappoint.
Les Miserables – I’m still slowly, slowly reading this. It’s such a massive book and it goes in spurts of being really interesting, “fast paced?” and then getting sort of bogged down
Stardust by Gaimon – Amazing. Loved it. I’d totally read it again.
The River by Heller – eh. The story had such great potential but the writing was bad, bad, bad. And then ending was kind of ridiculous also.
The Tatooist of Auschwitz – another eh. I feel really badly saying I really didn’t like a book about the Holocaust, and a true story also, but there was so much about this book that seemed so just weird. I really didn’t like the narrator. He just seemed like a woman-infatuated guy. Which to have survived what he survived he would have to be a really strong person so it just didn’t it in my mind.
Brideshead Revisited by Waugh – man. This book was not at all what I expected. The first chapter or so I was really confused what I was reading, but by the end of it I absolutely loved it. It is totally one of those books that the longer you sit with it, the more you realize that you really loved it. The writing was amazing. Just amazing. I’m also listening to the Close Reads discussion on the book, which has also been super awesome too.
The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) – I’m persisting in reading through this series, although I feel like her writing is really starting to fall apart. I found so many mistakes in this book – places where she said something had happened and then it didn’t. People showing up that shouldn’t have. Just crazy stuff. What she has done is created two characters in Claire and Jamie that you honestly just cannot get enough of. That is brilliant and makes up for all the other sloppy writing that’s happening.
The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction – I really need to actually get a copy of this book. I really enjoyed it, but I read a library copy and had to read it almost too fast (no pleasure there!).
The Only Plane in the Sky (audio) – this was AMAZING. Like amazing. Highly recommend. But it is hard to listen to at parts. Just fyi.
I got a copy of Little Women for my birthday so I’m hoping to start that soon. Then I’m not sure. I really want to read Ann Patchet’s new book The Dutch House, but the library is closed indefinitely (not to mention I was like 70 in the queue on hold for it) so I’d have to buy a copy and it’s hard to spend money right now. I also got The Weight of Glory by CS Lewis for my birthday too that I’m hoping to start reading. And I splurged on a book for us to read aloud called Where the World Ends, because it’s about birds and nature…my favorite things.
I feel like my reading life so far in 2020 has been pretty scattered. I’ve picked up more books than I’ve finished and I found myself this week overwhelmed. I want reading to be a release and a joy and this week it started to feel more like a burden. I challenged myself to finish two of the books that were sort of hanging out there – one was a pre-read for my son and the other was for my book club. I’m happy to report I finished both with much joy. I’ve got one more on the horizon I’m hoping to finish this week and then I think I’ll feel a little less buried by books.
Sense and Sensibility – I liked this one. It did feel a little different for an Austen book. I can’t totally put my finger on it – perhaps because none of the men seemed likable? They all seemed like doofs. Maybe that was her point?
Frankenstein – this is a pre-read for my 10th grader and it took me a little bit to get into it, but when I did I kind of liked it. He’s still on the fence whether he’s enjoying it or not, but honestly I’m not sure I enjoyed it the first time I read it in high school. There are a handful of great literary discussion points and I think this book would probably be more enjoyed reading with a group rather than just your mom.
Tidelands – this is probably the worst book I’ve read in a long, long time. I kept reading it because I kind of wanted to know where she was going to go with this silly story. I’ve read many of Gregory’s book previously and loved them. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m more familiar with the history of this time period or if her writing has just gone down hill, but this had the most ridiculous character development I’ve ever read.
The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) – I took a break from this series for a while and I finally let myself start on the next book as a reward for finishing S&S. I’m happy to be back in the world of Claire and Jamie.
Out of the Silent Planet – we are reading this slowly aloud as a family. Our 10th grader read it a few years ago and it was his vote to start to read together. So far so good.
The Only Plane in the sky: An Oral History of September 11, 2001 – I’m listening to this on audio and it’s AMAZING! I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to buy this to have. It’s super, super good. Hard, but so many things I didn’t even know about.
The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction – this one is my goal to finish asap. It’s a small book and super interesting. His take on recommending books to people has been really interesting.
The Mind of the Maker – I’m reading this with a writing forum that I’m in and this book is hard, hard, hard. It was on my list to read this year at some point and when my writing forum chose it as a book club I figured this would be the best way to get it done. Was I ever right. I would totally have given up by this point if I wasn’t able to read/discuss with other people.
Joan of Arc by Mark Twain – this is a pre-read with my 7th grader. It’s been really good – which I had heard from many people. We’ve read many things about Joan of Arc over the years, but this has probably been the most interesting version we’ve read so far.
Liturgy of the Ordinary – this is a re-read for me. I’m not sure why I felt a pull to read it again, but I did and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m sort of prayer journaling through the chapters this time around and it’s been a great way to really let sink in what she’s going for in each chapter.
I’ve got a handful of other books I’m sort of reading, but not really. It’s either I’m reading them for school and I’m behind or I started them and then picked up something else. You can keep up with all those on Goodreads if you are so inclined.
Honestly I just want to finish some of these books hanging over me. I’ve got a few pre-reads for school I really just need to finish and a few other’s I started one day that I just need to close up too. I’ve been super awful about using my tea time to just sit and peruse my phone versus reading which is so bad! I’m not starting 2020 with good habits by any means.
I didn’t do as much garment sewing in 2019 as I would have liked, but the few things I did make I actually wear and love. This is progress for me. Most of the time I end up hating what I’ve sewn or it ends up in the U.F.O box to languish forever. I’m trying to be more thoughtful about what I try to sew – when choosing fabric and a pattern and realizing the extent of my sewing skills. I’ve pretty much determined I’m going to stay away from anything with a zip fly or a finished waistband…these are not in my wheelhouse nor something I care to get better at.
My favorite make from 2019 was my kelly green Gypsum skirt. This is definitely on my list to remake in 2020 and I’ve got just the fabric to make it with. I also made a Strata top, but I can’t seem to find any photos of it. I will definitely be making more of these too! In my quest to be more thoughtful about purchasing patterns to sew, I’m realizing that Sew Liberated patterns probably fit me the best of any. I’m a fan forever of Meg’s patterns and how she constructs garments.
So here’s my list of what I want to try and sew this year. This is a pretty extensive and long list of garments, so I’m not too positive that I’ll actually get it accomplished.
I already have fabric for:
Hinterland Dress by Sew Liberated (a lovely grey dot cotton gauze)
Love Yourself Hipster Underwear by Wardrobe by Me (I’m wanting to make try a few pairs for myself, but I’m mostly using this pattern to make some period panties using the kit from Sophie Hines. I already have some knit scraps that I’m partially using, but I did break down and order some thicker knit to use for these.
Another Gypsum Skirt in a lovely green and white cotton gauze. I’m thinking I make the version without the big a** pockets (as we call them in our house)
I’d like to make a dress or two in addition to the Hinterland and I’m trying to figure out which one of these I love the most. I’d love to do a denim/chambray like dress, but I also would really love to do a raw linen dress too.
Merchant and Mills Whittaker – I’ve long wanted to try a M&M’s pattern (and I’d love to try some of their linen too) and this is high on my wish list.
or Raglan Dress Both of these dresses are really similar, but there are some differences and I’m trying to decide which one I’d rather have in my stash on repeat.
I’d love to try a couple pairs of pants, but I’m sticking to elastic waists. Here are my top options right now…
Named Clothing Ninni Culottes – I keep seeing these on Instagram and I pretty much always love every version I see. I think these would be amazing out of some raw linen.
Blank Slate Patterns Skye Joggers – Blank Slate is another pattern company I’ve wanted to try and I’m all for comfy pants.
Sew House Seven Free Range Slacks – I’m sort of on the fence with these. I’ve seen tons of makes of them and I always love them, but when I look at the waist construction I just keep thinking it’s going to make me look super frumpy.
If there is one thing I do need in my closet, it is shirts. These are all pretty similar in many ways so I’m still working through which ones I think I’d love to have and remake.
Blank Slate Shoreline Boatneck – I really need a good, basic t-shirt pattern that has long and short sleeve options in my collection
Tessuti Mandy boat tee – this one is free so it will probably be my first knit make when I get to it. I like this one a lot, but it’s kind of boxy too.
And then one make for the men in my house if I could get my hands on some good knit.
I seriously doubt I will come anywhere close to making this list, but it’s good to have them put down (sort of like my master book list) to refer back to. First up, I need to work through the fabric and patterns that I have and then figure out what’s next!
The last couple of years as I’ve made my list of books to be read I’ve sorted them into just a few categories; fiction, non-fiction, spiritual growth, personal growth etc. I’ve also had a list from a book club that I’m in. (Sadly with the loss of my website data, I can’t go back and link to my previous reads)
This year, I’m trying something a little differently and making a bunch of different categories. Introducing my 2020 Book List. [Anything marked with a * is a carryover from 2019.]
Watership Down by Adams
The Tatooist of Auschwitz* by Morris
The Chosen* by Potok
Brideshead Revisited by Waugh
The River by Heller
The Dutch House by Patchett
Little Men* by Alcott
The Great Gatsby* by Fitzgerald
Fiction: Short Stories
That Distant Land* by Berry
The Odd and Frost Giants* OR Stardust* both by Gaiman
Fiction: Long Novel
Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Pruitt Stewart
Lost without the River by Scoblic
Non-Fiction: on Writing
The Writing Life by Dillard
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Millard
Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings by Pavlac
Non-Fiction: A Historical Period (this year the period of Reconstruction)
Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule by Robinet
Chariot in the Sky: A Story of the Jubilee Singers by Bontemp
Non-Fiction: A skill/Art focus
The Quiet Eye: A Way of Looking at Pictures by Judson
Non-Fiction: Personal Growth
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Duhigg
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Duckworth
Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Turkle
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by van der Kolk
Tending the Heart of Virtue* by Guroian
Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education* by Bauer
Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning by Littlejohn
According to Goodreads, I read 18,009 pages and 60 books in 2019. I’m not totally sure if that’s accurate. I know that there are a handful that I started and abandoned and I’m not sure how they factor that in.
My Top Picks:
I’m not a huge non-fiction lover, but I’ve realized this year that if I’m going to read non-fiction the memoir is hands down my favorite thing to read. Or essays. My top picks from this year are from those categories. Basically , these are books that I would highly recommend, I have recommended and/or I would totally read again.
The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. Basically, I just love Ann Patchett. I like her fiction, but I love her non-fiction voice even more. She writes like she is sitting next to you and I love that. Even more I love that one day I could actually walk into Parnassus in Nashville and run into her. One day.
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. This book satisfies my wander-lust. I’m realizing that I love the idea of traveling so, so much and the idea of living somewhere totally different and wild. But I don’t know that I’d ever actually do it.
The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchet. This book just makes me want to be a better mother. One that is less full of fear and more wild and willing to take risks.
Fidelity by Wendell Berry. I do love Berry, but of the couple of his novels I’ve read, it was this collection of short stories that made me really love him. They are all really, really good, but the title story is amazing.
The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck. I just finished this one and I’m still processing. I had not read Steinbeck since high school and I really loved him then and this book reminded me why. This book was really eye opening to a facet of history that I really know nothing about (the time of the depression and Dust Bowl) and the characters were so, so rich and good.
Folklore of the Scottish Highlands by Anne Ross. I’m super, super, super slowly writing a book and I read this book as research for the novel I’m working on. It was super interesting – it does help that I’m partially Scottish too.
Abandoned Books of 2019:
I abandoned only 5 books this year. I think that’s a record. It’s funny how I’ve finally reached that point in my reading life where I feel like I can actually abandon a book. Sometimes it was because they were for homeschooling and we decided they weren’t working (or were lousy or weird or whatever) and sometimes it was because I just couldn’t take it (such as Flannery O’Conner…yes, yes I know. That’s another post though). I started Phantastes by MacDonald because it was Lewis’ favorite book, but it was totally odd and I couldn’t get into it so I gave up. The last book was about Hadrian’s Wall, which was actually interesting, but I had to return it to the library and just decided it wasn’t worth getting again.
Over the past year I have had the pleasure of being introduced to some new tools for sewing that have quickly become some of “my cannot do withouts”
Sulky Stick n’Stitch – I saw this stuff all over instagram for a long time and couldn’t bring myself to use it. There was something that just made me think it was the lazy way out to transfer patterns – and honestly I didn’t love the feeling of stitching through a second layer. There are some things that I just can’t use this for (like custom portraits), but for pretty much everything else I’ve become a total convert. The ability to just design a pattern, print it out and then slap it onto a piece of fabric and get stitching has completely won me over. I highly recommend it.
Thread Heaven – the original Thread Heaven went out of business a couple years ago and I bought up a bunch of those little blue boxes before and man I am so glad I did. Originally I used this with my wool threads to smooth them out while sewing, but as I’ve started using more of the Stick n’Stitch it’s been the one thing that has made using it a must have. It changes the feel completely and I almost forget I’m sewing through two layers.
Sulky Cotton Petites – these were also new to me and I don’t know what I would do without them now. They come in a wide array of colors and their variegated colors are really awesome. They are a single strand thread which makes them super quick to go through when pulling threads for a project. They are about the thickness of 2-3 strands of divisible floss. I haven’t had any trouble yet with them bleeding onto projects, which has happened more than once with DMC threads.
Sulky Quilting Cotton Threads – I’ve long been a Gutermann girl when it comes to sewing threads and my understanding of different thread weights was pretty much nonexistent. I’ve learned this year that thread weight is a huge deal. Sulky’s 50 weight cotton thread has become my favorite thread especially when it comes to english paper piecing. I’ve used it for some simple hand quilting, for various paper piecing projects and machine quilting.
Aurifil Threads – For my latest quilting project, I decided I wanted to try Aurifil thread. I see it all the time on social media and I had never tried it out. Like the Sulky threads, I’m totally in love. I see many more spools of this in my future.
Add a Quarter Ruler – This is one of the first tools I bought when I was getting ready to take on my Fancy Forest Quilt and it has been a Godsend. I absolutely love it and I need to get my hands on the Add an Eighth one so I can work on some smaller projects I’ve seen out there. It has been completely necessary for the paper piecing projects I’ve done.
Quarter-inch foot for my sewing machine – I pieced probably half of that Fancy Forest Quilt without this and finally broke down and found one online. This is totally another tool I couldn’t quilt without. I have a Juke sewing machine, but found an after market generic one on Amazon that has worked perfectly.
Other things –
In 2019 I decided to be brave and join my local Modern Quilt Guild. I am so happy that I have. I’ve seen so many different things and met so many different people and it’s been such fun. I’m excited for all the charity projects that they do and look forward to becoming more involved with this group in 2020. If you are even remotely interested in quilting I would strongly encourage you to see if you have a Modern Quilt Guild where you live and have some courage and try it out.
Seasons – I’ve long felt my embroidery life dwindling down the past couple of years. As I’ve gotten older my eyes have finally started getting worse and honestly so have my hands. After almost 5-6 years of constantly hand embroidering, I think it’s really caught up with me and I cannot do the detail work that I used to. I’m excited that I’ve taken up quilting, as the paper piecing work gives me something to do with my hands without the precision and detail that hand embroidery demands. I’m not sure where this will leave my Etsy shop. I do love designing patterns, but I’m not sure that I am going to continue to custom work.
This for sure is going to be the year of quilting. There are a few garments that I’ve got on the docket for this year, but my list of quilting projects is way longer.
I’m always hopeful that this is going to be the year I take up weaving, but I keep telling myself as much as I want that loom, I don’t want it until I know that I can actually make space to learn and use it.