Monday, December 15, 2014

Rudolph quilt block & tutorial

Merry Christmas! I have a fun little Christmas project I've been working on, and I thought I'd share with you. I found a sweet (free!) reindeer knitting pattern on Pinterest, and modified it just a bit to make a cute little Rudolph quilt block.

Originally, I wanted to make this cute reindeer for the main part of a stocking, but with 1/2" finished pieces, it was still 8" x 8 1/2" finished, and I thought that was a little bit big for a stocking. Who wants to fill a stocking that big? :) So, instead, I think I'll make a cute little wall hanging à la Lori Holt, but I'm finishing up enough projects right now, I'm sure I'll have to do it another time. Possibly next year? We'll see...

FABRIC REQUIREMENTS: I just used scraps for my little reindeer, but I'm sure you could a couple or three reindeer out of 1/8 yd. (or fat eighth) of background fabric and 1/8 yd. (or one fat eighth) of red fabric. I prefer the body of the reindeer to be all one color, but you could make him in a different color (green or brown or anything), or make his horns brown and his feet black, or even make him really scrappy – I think he'll be cute however you make him!

CUTTING INSTRUCTIONS: Just cut one of each piece, unless otherwise specified.

1” square – cut three
1” x 1 ½” – cut two
1 ½” x 2 ½”
1” square – cut two
1” x 1 ½” – cut three
1” x 2 ½”
1” x 2” – cut two
2” x 4 ½”

1” square – cut four
1” x 1 ½”
1” x 2” – cut four
1 ½” x 2” – cut two
1 ½” x 2 ½” – cut two
2” square – cut two
2” x 3”
2” x 3 ½”
2” x 4”

ASSEMBLY: I made this one section at a time, and put it together log-cabin style, attaching each section clockwise around the center section as I went along. That's how I wrote these instructions, but you could also assemble the sections individually and sew them all together at the end. The section assembly will be preceded by an asterisk, so you can leave those instructions for the end if you'd rather.


1” x 2”
1 ½” x 2 ½”
2” x 4 ½”

1” x 2”
2” x 3 ½”

1. Sew red 1” x 2” to white 1” x 2” , along the short side.
2. Sew white 2” x 3 ½” to bottom of unit; orient so the red section is in the top left corner.
3. Sew red 1 ½” x 2 ½” to left of unit.
4. Sew red 2” x 4 ½” to bottom of unit.

1” x 1 ½”

1” x 1 ½”
1 ½” x 2 ½”
2” square

1. Sew red 1” x 1 ½” to white 1” x 1 ½”, along the short side.
2. Sew white 1 ½” x 2 ½” to right of unit; orient so the red section is in the top left corner.
3. Sew white 2” square to top of unit.

* Sew SECTION 2 to the right of SECTION 1.


1” square
1” x 1 ½”
1” x 2”

1” square
1” x 2”
1 ½” x 2”
2” x 4”

1. Sew red 1” x 1 ½” to the top of white 1 ½” x 2”. Sew this unit to right of white 2” x 4”; orient so the red section is in the top right corner.
2. Sew red 1” x 2” to top of white 1” square. Sew this unit to right of previous unit; orient so red parts connect.
3. Sew white 1” x 2” to top of red 1” square. Sew this unit to right of previous unit; orient so red square is in bottom right corner.

*Sew SECTION 3 to bottom of SECTIONS 1 & 2.


(3) 1” square
1 x 1 ½”
1” x 2 ½”

(2) 1” square
1” x 2”
1 ½” x 2 ½”

1. Sew white 1” square to left of red 1” square. Sew to bottom of red 1 x 1 ½”; orient white square to bottom left corner.
2. Sew white 1 ½” x 2 ½” to bottom of unit.
3. Sew red 1” square to top of white 1” x 2”. Sew red 1” x 2 ½” to left of THIS unit. Sew this unit to bottom of previous unit.
4. Sew white 1” square to left of red 1” square. Sew to bottom of unit.

*Sew SECTION 4 to left of SECTIONS 1-3.


1” square
(2) 1” x 1 ½”

1” square
1” x 2”
1 ½” x 2”
2” square
2” x 3”

1. Sew white 1” square to top of red 1” x 1 ½”. Sew this unit to right of white 2” square; orient red section to bottom right corner.
2. Sew red 1” square to left of white 1” x 2”; this is the top of this unit. Sew white 1 ½” x 2” to left of red 1” x 1 ½”; this is the bottom of this unit. Sew top of this unit to bottom of this unit, so red square is in top left corner and red rectangle is in bottom right corner. Sew this unit to right of previous unit.
3. Sew white 2” x 3” to right of previous unit.

*Sew SECTION 5 to top of SECTIONS 1-4.

You're done!!  Don't worry if he looks a little funny at this point -- adding a 1/4" seam allowance to a 1/2" square makes things look way out of proportion, but when you put him in a quilt he'll look all right. :)

And, just for fun, I thought I'd change things up just a little bit, and give old Rudolph a scarf. 
Isn't he even cuter?!  And the change is only to SECTION 1, so here are the new cutting instructions and assembly instructions.


(2) 1” x 2”
1 ½” x 2”
2” x 3 ½”

1” x 2”
1” x 3”

1 ½” x 2”
2” x 2 ½”
1. Sew red 1” x 2” to top of white 1 ½” x 2”. Sew to right of red 1 ½” x 2”; orient white rectangle to bottom right corner.
2. Sew green 1” x 3” to bottom of unit.
3. Sew white 2” x 2 ½” to right of unit.
4. Sew red 1” x 2” to left of green 1” x 2”. Sew red 2” x 3 ½” to right of THIS unit. Sew this unit to bottom of previous unit.

Proceed with all other instructions as described previously.

I hope you like this project -- and if you make a little reindeer, please let me know!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Keeping It Real

I bet you thought I was going to show you my super messy laundry room, didn't you? Fooled you! I'm talking today about seasons (as in, the seasons of our lives) and my goals. So, here's a little piece of what I've been working on lately...

When I had my babies, I really wanted to make them baby quilts.  And that's as far as I went. I made them quilts because that's just what you do -- at least, if you're in my family, you do. (Or you might buy a quilt or have one made by a family member - but you get the picture.) It's just something that happens when there's a baby, like getting a crib or a car seat.  Right? :) I just didn't know any better, so that's what I did. And I enjoyed the process -- until it got to the quilting. I learned to quilt by hand, in a time when NOBODY quilted by machine, not even a longarm. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't cool, it was too expensive -- if you really cared about someone, you would quilt it by hand.  If you were doing a quick project, you could tie it, but NOBODY quilted by machine. And I didn't even know there was another option with my first three children. So, I would find out the gender, make up a baby quilt, and at 8 1/2 months, hand quilt my baby's quilt. Let me tell you, it was NOT comfortable. But the baby needed that quilt!  And I got all of them done on time.  I think.  You forget a lot of things after you have that baby, but I don't remember feeling guilty about it, so I must have been done, right?

After I had my fourth baby (his baby quilt was taken to a quilt shop and machine quilted -- and I loved it so so much!), we had our biggest gap ever between babies.  I felt so liberated -- for a couple of months, we didn't have anyone in diapers!  My hands had never been so smooth -- and I had a little more time on my hands, so I really started to catch that quilting bug.  I wanted to join a quilt guild, or go to a quilt group, or something, but the only ones I could find were classes at the local quilt shop, and I couldn't afford classes AND fabric, so I started up my own little group.  It is so so so much fun!  The ladies who come are all fun and funny and we have a really fun time together.

I think part of the reason why quilting wasn't really my thing before I was almost done having kids was that it just wasn't the right season for it.  I come from a long line of crafters -- we can all do pretty much anything we set our minds to, we just have that mindset -- and I really didn't have the time when my children were teeny tiny and running around biting ankles to focus on much more than that.  Does that mean that a young mother who is also crazy about quilting can't be a good mother? No way -- that just means that I couldn't.  I had other crafty things that I would do occasionally, but as a young mom I really couldn't do anything as long-term as quilting.  And writing -- another of my passions -- was indefinitely set on the backburner.  I really do want to write fiction -- but for me, that day will have to come later.

Right now, though, is my time and season for quilting on the side. Maybe it will last the rest of my life; maybe it will last for another couple of years. Who knows!  That's what's so exciting about this life -- you just never know what's around the corner!  I still can't go to every retreat I've ever wanted to attend (Oh, Quiltbliss, how I long for you!), for both financial and time reasons.  In a couple of years, my baby goes to Kindergarten, and the next year is first grade, so I'm planning on doing more then, but until that happens, I just don't feel like I can. But what I can do -- that I've not been able to do until recently -- is go to a sewing day for a couple of hours.  And blog (infrequently). And host a quilt group at my house. And sew at night after the kids are in bed. And every so often, I get a day or two off from my full-time mothering gig; Joel will take a day off work and let me go play with my quilty friends.  It's so much fun!  And I really use those days to recharge and relax from my day job -- and go back with a renewed spirit.

As for pattern design, I really really loved doing it for a year. And I'll love it again -- maybe sooner rather than later.  I plan on submitting some ideas to places like Moda Bakeshop and American Patchwork and Quilting -- and maybe some others -- in the new year. I'm really not afraid of failing -- I'm afraid of succeeding too early, when I really need to devote more time to my stay-at-home children. :)

And... just because I KNOW you want to see it... here's my messy laundry room.
Yikes, I've got to get on that straight away -- it's scarier than I thought!!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Quilting Inspiration

If you're a quilter, you know that there are a million and one patterns out there.  I've even designed a few myself! But sometimes you just want to do a block that is New and Different.  I've heard an author, Rachel Hawkins, describe it as the Slutty New Idea.  Basically, in writing the Slutty New Idea says, "I'm so much more interesting than that old idea.  Trust me, I'll be so much easier to write!" 
In quilting, we have our own version of the Slutty New Idea.  We call it Quilting Inspiration.
This happens when we see a cool shape on a vacation 
or a cute comment-with-no-picture
or a cute plate online
or a perler bead pattern

via Pinterest 
or even a pizza pan.
And then we totally neglect every other project we've ever started.
Most recently, I fell for the Slutty New Idea found inspiration in my jelly jar lid.
I thought it would make a sweet quilt, so I tried it out on graph paper and figured out measurements.

Less than 26 hours later, I had myself a cute little baby quilt! 

I'm not sorry a bit. :)

Friday, September 26, 2014

General Conference is coming!

EDITED: Since I've received so many requests for this pattern, I've made a Google doc for the instructions and the patterns. You can view all of them through the link on HERE on my Free Cross Stitch Patterns page -- I hope you enjoy them!  Please let me know at if you've made either of these -- I'd LOVE to see! :)

It's not often I talk about religion -- but with five kids you know I'm either Mormon or Catholic, right? :) I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and sometimes we're called Mormons. And twice every year, our church has a General Conference, two days of meetings (always at 10:00 and 2:00 for 2 hours each, and another meeting just for the men of the church. The ladies have a similar meeting a week before General Conference).  Many people outside of the western United States have to dress up and go to their local ward (church) building to watch the broadcast, but you can now stream live online at Or, if you're around Utah, you can watch it on TV, and sometimes our family calls it Pajama Church. :)

I just love General Conference time. It's always a really peaceful couple of days; we're all together as a family, and the kids know they need to be quiet so we can listen. I've been surprised at how much they really absorb, even though they're playing with cars or dollies in the corner. There are so many wonderful talks -- and the Spirit is so strong - I always feel SO recharged when we're done. And now I'm done preaching at you, and we'll get to the reason why I'm even talking about it.

When I was growing up, my Mom was pretty strict. We were pretty young when we were required to watch all four sessions of Conference -- and for kids whose Mom didn't let them watch much TV, it was a pretty clear indicator to us that she thought it was important. One of my favorite things to do during Conference was to have a cross stitch project. It kept my hands busy and gave me something to do when the talks got a little long. :)

Lately, I've been working on the "Once Upon a Time" sampler from The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. It's so, so darling -- follow those links! I haven't gotten very far, and I've found a girl on Instagram (@lumablumahandmade) who is doing the storybook names instead of month names in each block, which I really like. The biggest thing I'm planning to change is the month of March -- it's my birthday month, and I just REALLY don't want to use the three little pigs for my month, even though the big bad wolf is so darling!

So, I'm a little overwhelmed by how behind I am. I started in March, so I was already behind, and I've only completed one full month. And, since I'm the Mia Maid counselor in my ward, I thought the Young Women might really like to have a simple little free project to work on during Conference. They have a symbol, a torch with a girl made of flames.  Is she the original "Girl On Fire"? I think so!  I found a cross stitch pattern on Pinterest that I really liked, but it linked directly to an image and I can't find the original source. It was hand-drawn, and I wanted something a little more professional and easy to read. So, I worked my magic and made a pattern for my girls. Since it was a free pattern in the first place, and quite simple, I think it's probably okay to distribute -- so if you want a copy, I'm happy to email it to you. Just comment with your address and I'll send it to you as quickly as possible. {EDIT} just follow the link at the top to get the instructions and charts you need!
Isn't she cute?!

** Random story: When I was a Young Woman (ages 12-18) myself, I took a sweet little Precious Moments coloring page, and the Young Theme, and made a cross stitch pattern of both. It turned out so so cute! I ended up making two -- and giving them to both my sisters. :)  Before my little girls are in Young Womens, I'd love to make them each one too!

Since you need choices in your life, I also made a Provo Temple cross stitch pattern, but I used a pattern from etsy for the Angel Moroni, so I don't feel comfortable distributing that part of the pattern.  But here's the part I used; it took quite a long time to work up, and I'm so happy with how it turned out!

And I last-minute had to reverse the Angel Moroni -- you want to make sure the Angel Moroni is pointing the right way! Again, just comment with your email and I'll send my part of it. {EDIT} just follow the link at the top to get the instructions and charts you need!   And then you can have a great General Conference project too!


Monday, September 8, 2014

Metal Stamping

Have you ever done metal stamping? I'll admit, I was never very intrigued by this craft. I've dabbled a tiny bit with jewelry making, but never done stamping. I made friendship bracelets like a fiend when I was a tweener, but didn't do anything else until I had my little girl. And then, she just HAD to have a cute little bracelet! Since I discovered it wasn't really scary or hard, I've made a few more bracelets, some super bangly and some super simple. And I don't think I took a picture of a single one! I've seen cute little necklaces that were stamped, with kids' names on them, but never really wanted to pay for them. I figured it must be pretty difficult, since it's stamped into metal, and you probably needed to have a tool of some sort. Little did I know...

I'm in the Young Women presidency in my ward -- the first counselor. That means I work with the 14-15 year old girls in my church, on Sundays and at Tuesday night activities -- and at certain times of the year, we do a week-long Girls Camp, an overnighter Youth Conference, and assorted parties to highlight new girls and everything they've done for Personal Progress. We do a ton of crafty sorts of things, and most of the time they really come out nice! About a month ago, we challenged all the young women (ages 12-17) to read the Book of Mormon in one month. That's no small feat -- it's 538 pages (with the introduction) of some really deep doctrinal scripture. For most people, it's a challenge just to read it in three months, and we gave our young women a third the time! So, we really wanted to reward the girls who completed the challenge. We brainstormed, and the best idea we came up with was to make a necklace that emphasized our challenge theme: I can do hard things. Our president had a metal stamp set and bunch of aluminum blanks and ball necklace chains left over from a craft we didn't get to at camp. I volunteered to try my hand at stamping the blanks... and then forgot about it until the Sunday before our activity! I wasn't able to get to it Sunday at all, because I also play for the choir and had a couple of meetings after church. Monday was Labor Day, so I went and got some jump rings and beads from the craft store, some temple charms from Deseret Book, and went to town. Thanks to youtube, my first try went pretty well!
After I attached the temple charm and bead, I sent over a picture to my YW pres. She loved it, so I got crazy -- by midnight, I'd made 20 full necklaces, and I was ready for a good long sleep!
I've returned my YW president's metal stamp set, but I think I'll get one for me -- I have five cute little names to stamp on a Mama necklace. :)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

On the To Do List

To Do Today:
  • Wake up early!
  • Make stick horses for birthday party
  • Make cake for birthday party
  • Birthday party!
  • Fix dress for Paige's baptism
  • Make sure soccer stuff is clean for tomorrow
  • Shopping for horse food & last-minute party stuff
  • Freezer meal exchange
  • Read through Sunday's lesson
  • Make scripture bag
  • Look longingly at quilting... maybe tomorrow!

    Photo: Round Robin Quilt, final border to be determined

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I Swoon

I Swoon -- do you?  I bought this pattern as soon as I found out about Camille Roskelley, and it's probably one of my favorites EVER. I've made two one-block baby quilts, two one-block Christmas table toppers, and one four-block lap quilt -- and that's just about one whole Swoon quilt!

One week before Paige's birthday, I decided she needed a quilty present.  She chose the fabric and the pattern last year -- I had some, and some I ordered from Fat Quarter Shop -- but I never felt the need to make the quilt. Until a week before her birthday. I always get fabulous gift ideas just before they're "due" -- of course!

So, I was able to cut out all the fabric in one night, after the kids went to bed... which meant I had a little less than one week to complete a twin-sized Swoon quilt.  Luckily, I had already figured out that I could make a twin-sized quilt with only 6 blocks, sashing in between, and a 5" border all around. 

I worked so hard! Tuesday I made one block.

Wednesday I made one block.

Thursday I made two blocks.

And Friday I ALMOST made two blocks at once -- but I messed up. Can you tell what I did? Argh.
By the way, did you notice that some of the blocks are whole pieces of fabric? Check out the piecing on this block -- the squares are squares because that's how I pieced that part of the block, instead of having two rectangles. And the red parts that are NOT part of the center star are whole, too -- I even figured out how to cut out everything from one fat quarter each, just like the original pattern calls for.  I made it this way once when I needed to keep some polka dots intact. I love it this way, and I don't think I'll do it the other way again!

And Saturday I fixed the two "broken" blocks in just about an hour.

And then I finished the whole top -- just in time for Paige's birthday! (I didn't get a picture of the top finished, but this is the layout.)

Of course, I decided to do a pieced backing... Oh yeah, didn't I mention that I always planned the back to be pieced? Because the front is so plain...  So, when I got backing fabric, I simply order a half-yard here and a half-yard there. But the plan I made was pretty unimaginative. And, to be frank, a little bit ugly. So, this Monday (the day AFTER her birthday) I worked with the fabric I had, and came up with this little plan:
I think it's safe to say it's going to be amazing -- I can't wait to show my quilt group!


Monday, August 25, 2014

Happy Birthday!

Last week was the start of another school year, and for me that means PTA starts up too.  I'm in charge of teacher & staff birthday treats, and they turned out so so cute!

This year I decided to go simple and sweet. What's simpler and sweeter than a giant sugar cookie?  Oh, yeah -- these are Granny B pink sugar cookie size, and I'll say they're just as good! And the packaging worked out just as cute as it was in my head. I love it when that happens!

The fonts I used are 2Peas Mr. Giggles (I think it was $2?), Maiden Orange (free on, Return to Sender (free on, and Wish I Were Taller (free on

And here's the recipe:

MTC Sugar Cookies
(I call them that because this is the recipe I used when my sister and Joel's were in the MTC together)
from my Great-Aunt Valene Ferguson

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. margarine or shortening
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
7 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Cream butters. Add sugar, egg, sour cream, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix well after each addition. Chill 1 hour. Roll out and cut into desired shapes. Placed on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake or they won't stay soft!

Frosting -- not super technical, but this is how I make it:
1/2 c. butter, softened
splash of milk
dash of vanilla
powdered sugar
food coloring

Whip butter for a couple of minutes. Add milk, vanilla, food coloring and at least 1/2 a bag of powdered sugar. Keep adding powdered sugar and milk as needed to achieve desired consistency. Taste it and add a little butter if needed for flavor. Add more sugar and/or milk if needed. When everything is perfect, frost cookies.  If there is leftover frosting, add cocoa powder until it's nice and chocolatey and spread on graham crackers for a sweet treat that will remind you of your childhood!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Karen Nyberg's Quilt Challenge

Have you heard of Karen Nyberg? She's that astronaut who was quilting in space about a year ago. When she was interviewed about it, she mentioned some of the challenges she faced (apparently gravity helps us quilt, who knew!) and how neat it is for her to have something to remember her stay on the International Space Station. And quilters everywhere rejoiced and thought she was the coolest thing ever because -- hello, quilting in space! You can watch the video and read the interview HERE.

At the end of the article, it mentions that Karen Nyberg and NASA and the International Quilt Festival are challenging THE ENTIRE WORLD to make star blocks and send them in to become part of a quilt that will include Karen's star block. Of course, I immediately planned to do it -- sometime before the deadline. And promptly forgot about it, because about that time I decided to talk to Emily Herrick about designing quilt patterns. :) And two quilt markets later, I'm starting to get a feel for the rhythm of pattern design for Quilt Market -- and I just can't get enough!

And then, sometime around June 29th I saw THIS POST by Fat Quarter Shop's Jolly Jabber, and knew the time was now! I would have regretted not including a block, but they saved my bacon just in time -- thank you Kimberly and the crew! :) And if you want to be a part of it all, and send in your 9 1/2" quilt block, all the information you need is in that post. :)

So, this is my quilt block, which will be on display at the International Quilt Festival.

This block was inspired by a mini quilt made by Amanda Castor at Material Girl -- as soon as I saw it I fell in love! You can see her mini quilt here.

I really hope someone takes a picture of the quilt with this block in it. I can't go to Houston this fall, so I won't be attending the festival, but you can bet I'll be stalking the bloggers who are there -- just hoping someone gets that photo for me!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sewvivor- Natalie Ever After

I'm totally entering the "SEW-VIVOR" contest!  I've always wanted to do one, but I had a little baby the first season, and then I forgot about it.  But when I saw it was a quilting edition -- oh, baby, I'm so there!

This is a quilt I made for Quilt Market this year.  It's called Flower Tile, and it's my own pattern!  It's a perfect lap-sized quilt, measuring 50" x 66" (after washing!)  I love love love the color combination -- it really makes me so happy!  It's fun and girly, and for a flower quilt you really need that.  Plus, it's a little bit elegant, with the gold thrown in there.  A piece of art I pinned inspired the color palette, and I think it's the first time the actual quilt was BETTER THAN I PLANNED.  When does that ever happen?! It was really so, so much fun to work on!

My favorite block has to be this one:

My favorite block, with friend:

But Joel's favorite is this one (I know -- it's so soft and girly!):

And this is my favorite star:

I really hope I get in!

Okay, so here's the scoop on Survivor (the actual TV show).  I used to be an avid fan in the "Rob" years -- I saw him on the first season, and then I saw him and his fiancée on the heroes vs. villains season. But over time, I realized I was waaaay too invested in the lives of people who were not really real.  I know they call it reality television, but in reality they're fairly well scripted a lot of the time.  I'm pretty practical about stuff like that.  And while I really like the challenges, and the game, I really don't like all the contention -- especially when I think it might be just a little forced.  Anyway, it was fun and I'll watch it again, I'm just not as into it as I once was.  BUT... one night (a few months after the decision to not watch for a while) I WAS CHOSEN TO BE ON SURVIVOR. 

I remember it so vividly -- I was pulling into my driveway one evening after doing some errands, and my cell phone rang.  I answered, and heard, "Hello, Mrs. Smith. This is Andrea from Survivor, and we'd like you to be a contestant on the show."

My first reaction: I was so surprised and excited! And then I had to decline.  "I'm so sorry, I'd really love to compete, but I have a four-month-old baby that is still nursing.  I really wish I could, though, because this has been a dream of mine since the show aired."

The lady on the phone was so nice. "Oh, that's all right, Ms. Smith.  We can hold your spot for you for the next season."

Of course I accepted -- and then I woke up.  Yep, that was seriously one of the best dreams I've ever had.  And, lest you think I'm a reckless thrill-seeker, let me clarify -- I've never wanted to be on Survivor -- they eat waaaay too many gross critters for this picky eater.  As far as I know, they would never, ever hold your place for you -- they have so many applicants, I really think they'd just say good luck in the nicest way and let you go on with your life.  And, at the time, I didn't even have a cell phone.  But since that dream, I've had a secret desire to just see what would happen if I applied!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hello Again!

Wow -- I didn't mean to take a three-month break from blogging.  That being said, it's been a pretty good break.  I went to Quilt Market, we finished up school, and summer vacation is in FULL SWING!  I'm really enjoying my kids being home this summer -- they only drive me crazy when they're fighting, and that's been mostly prevented by strategically-planned playdates. :)  Aaah, playdates -- a Mom's best friend!

I've also been working on some projects, and I still need to show-and-tell all about Quilt Market, but for today (since I have just a few minutes), I'll just show some pictures of a recent project I did.  Many thanks to two ladies -- Lori Holt from A Bee in my Bonnet and Angela Walters from Quilting is My Therapy.

Isn't it cute?! I thought I'd make a wintry table runner, and this was originally going to be the back side -- but in the end I just couldn't help but make a second table runner. The block I made is a Great-Granny Square, a super popular tutorial made by Lori Holt. It's like magic how this comes together! And a great leader/ender block -- although I generally notice that my leaders and enders are so much fun to work on that I scrap the first project so I can work on them. :)

^^I had bookmarked a tutorial, but I think it's no longer available, because she made a whole book about it.  The book looks so cute!

^^As my friend Marion says -- the back side is the best side!  See how I learned from my mistakes? A more plain (although still pieced) back is totally okay not to show all the time.

^^And the quilting was made possible by Angela Walters' book "Free-Motion Quilting", which I got from Amazon. It's really a great reference on how to make all sorts of motifs, including pebbles, flowers, and leaves -- all of which are in my little project!

I have always been pretty naturally good at a lot of crafty things -- knitting, crochet, scrapbooking, sewing clothing -- as long as I have a pattern or an idea of what I want to do, I'm good to go.  But free-motion quilting really stole a little bit of that confidence for a while.  My mother picked it up really easily, and I've had a bunch of friends that just do it, so I took a class at my local quilt shop, and I was just so naturally BAD at it that I didn't even want to try! Now that I'm trying my hand at pattern design, though, I'm really cranking out a bunch of new projects, and I really wanted to get good at it.  As you can see, I need a little more practice -- but for a first attempt at three different techniques, it's not too bad, if I say so myself!


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Teacher Appreciation Week

This year, I was asked to head up the Teacher Appreciation Week at our school.  I had done it once in the past and it was the NIGHTMARIEST NIGHTMARE EVER.  I took over last-minute for a girl who wasn't able to do it due to a sudden and complicated pregnancy, and she'd planned the most elaborate, intricate Teacher Appreciation Week ever.  When it came down to it, I should have re-planned it, but didn't know how else to do things.  My oldest child was in Kindergarten, and I naively thought that since I appreciated teachers, everything would work out without too much hassle.  The short story is, it was a ton of work, and I was completely overwhelmed.  And pulled my first all-nighter since college.

I know some schools are very low-key with their Teacher Appreciation Week.  It's generally the first week of May, and their teachers get a small gift from the room parent.  At our school, the PTA generally arranges for a treat every day, door decorations, a gift, and an hour-long luncheon for the teachers on Friday. It really is kind of a big deal!

So, you can see why it was with great trepidation that I approached Teacher Appreciation Week this year.  I planned throughout the school-year, but decided I needed to really get things going at least a month and a half before our actual week.  Our official theme was "Books" -- but our unofficial theme was "I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie"!!

The one thing that really made me feel calmer was that about 25 people had signed up to help this year!  I had a meeting with all the people that signed up to help -- and only three people (one was my next-door neighbor who's just about my best friend) showed up.  I wasn't nervous though -- several others said they could help with other projects, but couldn't attend the meeting.  Of the three that came, two took two of the treat days, and the other took my scariest project -- the teacher gift.  I absolutely hate asking people for donations -- I blame my paper route, where I had to collect money from the people I delivered to.  But one of the ladies that came actually volunteered to put the gift together and ask for all the donations -- and suddenly it was like I could breathe again!

As Teacher Appreciation Week drew closer, I put together a few little decorations -- some that didn't work out so well.  One that did work out was kind of fabulous -- my neighbor (the same one from before) came over one morning and our kids played while we burned ourselves on the hot glue gun, making a book wreath.  It turned out so pretty! The other that turned out was my book page garland.  I made hundreds of circles out of book pages, glued them around a long piece of yarn, and wound them around the skein of yarn, just in case I needed more.  I ended up using a little less than half of what I made -- but I think it turned out pretty cute, and it was very on-theme. :)
(You can see a picture of both projects on the food table below.)

On Monday morning, the girl in charge of gifts brought them and handed them out, and I gave them a little agenda.  I also had the school secretary send out an email telling them that these were the themes for each day, and treats would be in the faculty room from 10:00 - 1:00 every day (except Friday).  I think it turned out pretty cute, if I do say so myself!  And I have a little nod to the rescheduling in the due dates.  Hee hee -- I'm such a nerd about stuff like that!

With our themes, we made sure that each day would have some food treat that coordinated with a children's book.  For example, we did blueberry muffins with "Blueberries for Sal", cookies with "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie", etc. 

I coordinated with the girl in charge of Room Moms for the door decorating, and in the end all but one door was decorated.  We decorated the doors the last day of school on the week before Teacher Appreciation Week.  I'm also a Room Mom for my little girl's class, so I decorated that one and the extra one.  It's official -- I am possibly the world's worst door decorator.  I've done it several times, and I've made peace with the fact that mine are super obviously the worst ever. 
See what I mean? There are so many levels of bad in this picture.  I think the teacher knew it was the thought that counts. :)  She really is one of the sweetest, kindest teachers we've ever had -- sadly, this door does not reflect that.  Oh, well -- I guess we can't all be good at everything!

Friday was my biggest job -- the one-hour luncheon.  Even though it was Teacher Appreciation Week, traditionally everyone in the school (from janitors to office staff to teachers) is included in the luncheon.  So, I was in charge of feeding 75 people.  Did I mention that I feel like I'm really bad at planning parties?!?  I had a recipe for a really yummy sandwich (my Dad actually said it was his favorite sandwich ever), and as the day got closer I really wanted to have the meal catered somehow.  Of course, I only had $200 to work with, so ordering 6" subs for everyone was out of the question, but I thought I might as well put on my big girl panties and go ask if we could get a discount.  I went to a local sub shop and asked if they could give us some sort of a school or group discount, and they said they could give us no tax -- which totally changed the price NOT AT ALL because we already get a tax exemption because it's PTA.  Oh, well!  So, Thursday night I stayed up a little late making sandwiches.  14 French bread loaves full of sandwiches.  And of course there were leftovers (12 would have been more than plenty), so I can say that they were pretty tasty, if I do say so myself!  All the other food was brought in by others, so that was probably my biggest role for the day, besides being there and making sure all the food was out.

I think the luncheon was a HUGE hit, and I was so glad I thought of books to coordinate with everything!  We had "Pinkalicious" punch (just strawberry lemonade), "Very Hungry Caterpillar" fruit & veggie trays, "Green Eggs..." (deviled eggs dyed green), "...and Ham" sandwiches, and for dessert we did "Alice in Wonderland" treats -- meringues, and cupcakes, and tarts, and all sorts of goodies.  The only thing I couldn't figure out a name for was the chips and the pickles, but I figured everything else was so fun it didn't matter.  It turned out so cute too!
While the teachers had their long luncheon, the Room Moms made sure there was at least one parent for each class.  I made a cute little booklet packet for each class, and they were told to pick up a packet and a ribbon, and the instructions told them how to make it.  Basically, each packet had at least one paper per child (plus a few extras, just in case), with writing prompts such as "I love being in Ms. Jensen's class because..."  The children could fill it out however they wanted (writing, pictures, whatever), and then the helper bound the booklet with ribbon and they left it for the teacher.  I told the parents that when they were done, hangman or some other game might be a good idea.  Joel did most of the hole punching while I was making the sandwiches Thursday night -- I decided he could appreciate the teachers too! :)
This is an example of the thank-you gift I gave to all my helpers.
If you look closely, you'll say this one says: Joel -- You're a champ and my FAVORITE! Love, Natalie :) THANKS Your help was better than chocolate.  Inside a snack-sized baggie was an assortment of snack-size Kit Kats and miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  (Joel got extras because he got this baggie and helped me eat the leftovers too -- but he earned it!)
In retrospect, I think I should have actually done a little more coordinating with other helpers -- I ended up helping with three days out of the four, plus my biggest job was the luncheon.  I guess I'll know better for next year, right?  Oh, wait -- didn't I mention?  I'm in charge next year too.  The good news is, I've got a little experience under my belt, so I feel like next year could be the year of stress-free Teacher Appreciation Week.  The extra-good news is, I found out that door decorating is -- get this -- OPTIONAL.  Yep, that's something we will definitely not worry about next year!  Although I think that might mean we need to do something a little more major at the entrances of the school or something.  The extra-extra-good news is, the girl who did the gifts this year VOLUNTEERED to do the same thing next year -- hurray!!  It might work out all right after all. :)

Monday, April 28, 2014

5 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back

So, I have been gone for a while.  First, it was Teacher Appreciation Week (our school did it March 24th-28th and I was in charge of the whole shebang).  Then I got pneumonia - again.  But now I'm back with a vengeance!  I'll do a quick recap of Teacher Appreciation Week tomorrow and talk about quilting on Friday -- unless I get sick again!

My last post, I'm so sorry to say, talked about how I was avoiding doing any sewing -- and it stayed up for more than a month.  How embarrassing!  I found my mojo within a week of writing that post, and I'm sad I haven't been able to share until now.  Here's how:

1. I gave myself a break.

After writing that post, I realized I really needed to stop feeling guilty about not wanting to sew.  I had so much going on, I really felt stressed – and I am NOT a huge fan of organizing parties, so Teacher Appreciation Week was really stressing me out!  I told myself that I didn’t have to do anything until after that week of craziness was over – and I didn’t!  It was amazing how much more motivated I felt after that week was over, too.  I wanted to sew again!  But before the week was over, I participated in a Rainbow Flashmob on Instagram. I was accidentally assigned two different colors - blue and orange - so I did both. It was so fun!

2. I organized some areas in my sewing room. 
I know it might not look any different to anyone else, but I completely organized my little bins, wrote down every single project I'm working on, and found some room for my kids' projects.  I don't know if I'm slightly OCD or what (and really, who isn't?), but I really can't focus on any project until I have a clean space to work.  I’ve discussed it with my sisters, and we all have the same problem.  We’ve decided that maybe it’s because we get overwhelmed by too much work, so we just don’t start.  I think it’s a perfectionist thing – if you can’t do it perfectly, why even try?  So, cleaning up the things that didn’t need to be there really helped me to focus on what I needed to do.
3. I started eating right & exercising.

I know this doesn’t necessarily correlate with quilting, but I really noticed a difference in my motivation when I started eating really healthy and exercising.  My sister’s sister-in-law had a health challenge, and it REALLY was a challenge!  We got a point or two for everything we did perfectly each day, and the points were for things like eating no sugary treats, no fried foods, and 5 fruits & veggies each day.  To get a perfect score you had to exercise FOUR HOURS a week!  It was so hard for me – but I was killing it until I got pneumonia!  Now I’m back to my sedentary ways (I’m still in recovery and don’t want to do too much too soon), but tomorrow I’m going running with a friend and have high hopes of being healthy again.

4. I made a design wall.

I used ideas from a couple of different tutorials (from Oh, Fransson! and Ellison Lane, mostly), but basically I got some foam insulation and taped batting around it.  I just used tape because I don’t have a staple gun – we are very basic on the tools around here – and I thought it would work out okay.  It looks so good, I think!  There was a cute little photobomber in this picture – I asked him to look tough with his “sword” and this is what I got!

5. I have a deadline.

There’s nothing like a deadline to really make you go go GO!  I am going to International Quilt Market in May, and my goal of four new patterns just can’t happen – since I lost a week and a half to pneumonia, I really can’t do one more thing.  But I do think I can get three new patterns done.  I really need to focus and work hard, but now that things are tidy and I’ve got my mojo back, I really think I can do it!  I'll have an update on Friday -- we'll see how I do!