family, featured, holiday, make something, quilting, quilts

Let’s Talk About Big Stitch Quilting

I was introduced to big stitch quilting in 1993. Maybe 1994? It’s been a while and I can’t quite remember the exact date.  25 years and all. Anyhow, I was working at a quilt shop during my summers home from school, and a woman that taught classes there used big stitch quilting for a lot of her quilts. It was new to me. I’d never seen it. I’d only seen teeny, weeny hand stitching – all very traditional (and lovely) – and I immediately fell in love! I thought it was the coolest way to quilt.

Ever.

I mean, tiny stitches are great but who needs 11 or 12 stitches an inch (and I most definitely couldn’t do that when I started!) when I can get away with 4 or 5, right? Besides it’s so much faster.

The first time I made a quilt with big stitch quilting was for a Christmas gift for my Dad. I used reproduction Smithsonian prints (very masculine and I still love those fabrics) and a 12 weight cream colored perle cotton. I probably (details are fuzzy here since it’s been a while) struggled to get the thread into the needle because I didn’t know to use a needle with a bigger eye. I have vague memories of fighting with a needle threader?? Nevertheless, I somehow managed to make it happen.

And I was so proud.

And I showed my quilt to said friend and she (very kindly) gave me a lesson.

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BIG STITCH QUILTING MEANS THE STITCHES ARE BIGGER. NOT ENORMOUS.

If in an ideal world of hand quilting you get 11 or so stitches in an inch of quilting, you should have less with big stitch quilting; meaning your stitches are bigg-er. 

Yeah.  So that sank in for a bit. My stitches were HUGE.  I ruined my Dad’s quilt. dang it!

So, while I was a little brokenhearted about that – you know, messing it all up (even though the quilt isn’t messed up it just has really. big. stitches), I took it as a lesson to learn about this new art I was exploring and went on my way. My Dad was (and still is) none the wiser, and loved his gift. He and Mom still have it over a railing in their house. I had to text mom for photos, in fact. 🙂

To be honest, I didn’t use big stitch quilting on another quilt for a while. I was afraid I’d mess it up. Again. That was DEFINITELY a mistake. Mess up. Learn. Move forward.

So, moving right along through the next decade or two, I would occasionally pick up big stitch quilting again, always careful to make my stitches bigger but not ridiculous.

The most recent (ahem, I say recent loosely) projects are baby quilts. One for my youngest son (he’s almost 8) and another for a friend that just had her first baby.

See how the stitches in the left photo are really big? They shouldn’t be quite so large. Remember, they need to be bigger than traditional hand quilting but not HUGE. You can see 25 years of progress in the right hand photo. Big stitch quilting should be closer to this. Bigg-er than traditional hand quilting stitches.

When you first start, your stitches won’t be small. Even big stitch quilting. That is okay. Keep practicing until you find your rhythm. You will get there. Promise!

Do:

•Use a 12 weight perle cotton. You can use a slightly thinner or thicker thread, but I have found it’s a good weight for big stitch quilting.
•Use a longer needle with a larger eye. I like to use a sashiko needle, but there are big stitch needles in a variety of sizes. Buy a few and experiment
•Remember that you want your thread to fill the hole in the needle (or close to it). If the opening is too large, your thread will fray and eventually break.
•Practice, practice, practice!

Don’t:
Get discouraged. My first big stitch quilt had ENORMOUS stitches. It’s okay.

Remember:

•Handmade isn’t always perfect.
•Handmade has mistakes.
•Handmade with love is better than anything you can buy. Imperfections and all.

family, holiday, kids, make something, personal, sewing

Adventures in Cosplay

I’ve never dabbled in cosplay. Whip up a costume? Sure. You need a Jedi robe? I gotcha covered.  Usually when I do make a costume, it’s quick and easy. Down and dirty. Nothing too elaborate.

But armor and helmets? Nope. I’m at a complete loss.

Usually costuming my kids doesn’t cause me any anxiety or stress until October. You know, when I have to figure out how to make a costume for one of them. According to thing 1 and thing 2,  I can make everything. I love that they think that. I love that I usually can make them happy (enough). Dabbling in a new medium to make it happen? Well, it made me a little nervous, and the last thing I needed or wanted in the days leading up to Halloween is to have a costume idea implode.

This year, littlest child was Spider-Man for Halloween. Easy-peasy, bought a costume. Done. Truth be told, he’s had a Halloween plan since last summer and  has been happily wearing his costume for months. months, people, months. 

Then oldest child chimes in on the subject. He wanted to be a Destiny 2 Warlock. WHAT?! I didn’t even know where to start, and after looking at the picture of the warlock online, I was really lost. I wasn’t quite sure where to begin so I thought on it for a while. I wanted something relatively easy that would get the look, but it didn’t have to be a full set of armor. At least in my mind.

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It took me some time, but I figured out how to modify the costume using a black bathrobe. I found an image with the graphic S wanted to use. I cropped and enlarged the image in Photoshop, printed it, traced the reversed image (thankyouverymuch, technology) on fusible, then applied it to the robe.

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Then I  made the front panel with some Kona yellow and charcoal. The charcoal tail was long enough to wrap and twist around his stomach so it kinda resembled the stomach armor. Enough for a 10 year old kid for one night of the year.

Then the helmet. The dreaded helmet. I had visions of heavily facing some black, grey, and yellow fabric and making a hat until the child found a pattern. I didn’t love the directions, but the images of how to assemble the helmet helped me figure out how to assemble the helmet (sort of) correctly.  The pattern was easy to download and print, and there aren’t a lot of pieces to make it.

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Per the instructions, I used 10mm EVA foam. If I knew last week that a lighter, better foam was available to make the helmet, I would have gone that route. Sadly for me, I found better foam at market then didn’t have time to run back to the booth and get some before heading out to catch my flight. dang! But I’ll know for next time, so that’s good.

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The foam is easy to cut if you have a FRESH X-acto blade. I realized halfway through I needed to change mine so some rough edges are visible. The edges with the new blade are super smooth. Unfortunately, you can’t see those.

I struggled to get the foam to mold the right way. I didn’t have a heat gun. I’m sure the higher temps would have been better than my hair dryer. I also wasn’t quite sure what I was doing. Bend, heat, repeat, and hope it held the shape. Super glue did a great job holding the pieces together but I did have to work to keep the pieces and the glue in the right spot until it took a little bit.  I’m sure there’s a less messy way to get the glue onto the foam than my approach. I was definitely feeling clumsy with this hat. The pieces were big, and not bending quite the way I wanted.

I give myself a solid C- on the helmet. You can see in the image below that S painted it so some of my mistakes are a little less visible.

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You can also see that the helmet was too big. Instructions say it’s one size, and it’s definitely big. Knowing what I know now, I’d change a few things to make V2.0 better. There’s a definite learning curve to this stuff, and I’m sure a LOT of tips out there to really fine tune your work. Next time, I’ll know where to look.

Perhaps even next time, S will wear the helmet while we trick or treat.

Yep. I held it the entire time. 🙂

book, family, kids, kids art, make something, personal

Raising a Mini Me

My littlest is an artist and was born with a crayon in his hand. For as long as he’s been alive, Q-man has always been coloring, drawing, molding, sculpting, creating, building, and generally in his imagination. He has gone from one obsession to the next – Thomas the Tank Engine, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Minecraft, Five Nights at Freddy, Spiderman….you get the idea. When he isn’t dressed up and pretending to be one of his favorite characters, he’s creating something. Always creating something. My house is covered with his artwork – most is on paper, in notebooks, some framed, some on the walls in his room. or furniture – and I don’t see that ending. Hopefully ever. Well, the drawing on furniture and walls can end.

Recently I read an article that really resonated with me. I can’t seem to find it, so I’ll paraphrase. The gist of it is that you should find something, anything, that you and your child love to do together, some shared passion, and cultivate it. That passion will get you through the tough years. My oldest is a mini version of my husband so I’m going to have to rely on my better half to handle S during the teen years. The littlest is a mini me….and let me tell you:

It’s hard to raise a little me. I’m a pain. A lovable, adorable pain, but a pain, nonetheless. I mean Q-man is a lovable, adorable pain.

I’ve thought about that article a lot over the summer and tried to find new ways to connect with my kids. The older one is more cerebral so baking, artwork, and coloring don’t appeal to him all that much. He’s definitely more of a challenge in the connecting with things that appeal to both of us (see above statement about husband picking up the work with this one in the teen years) but I’ve been better about listening to him talk about cars and space and other items that interest him, many of which I don’t know much about. I let him educate me, and love how his face lights up when he identifies planes and talks about rockets, spacecraft, and cars. He did declare that he wanted a quilt I was making, and I happily gave it to him, so that’s a win. And he’s been wanting to learn to cook so S and I have spent more time in the kitchen together. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that.  He picks one dinner meal we eat each week and has to help prepare it. That’s been fabulous!

While S is at drama camp this week (which he LOVES! it’s a nice change of pace and he’s having blast!), Q and I took a few hours to head to the High Museum of Art. We checked out the Warhol exhibit, excluding a section that was too mature in nature for him, and saw some other fun stuff. His little mind was blown. He couldn’t believe some of the art was art. You mean sitting on a log chair is art? whaaaa???? And as we went through the Warhol exhibit, what do you mean that’s a photograph that’s been enlarged, screen printed and painted on? Multiple times in different combinations…how is that done?! It was fascinating to see the wheels churning.

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On the way out, we browsed through gift shop and found a GREAT book. It’s called 642 Things to Draw. If you can’t get to the High, or find it at a local book shop, you can buy it here.

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The book is empty. Your young artist has to fill it. What a genius idea! Here are some of Q’s doodles:

The left side is a chocolate forest and the right side is a skeleton army, though it appears he forgot the army part, but one well drawn skeleton from the 7 year old is good enough for me.

The pages are subdivided differently so kids have an opportunity to work in different scales, and every section has something different to draw: a newborn ladybug, waking up as a zombie, happiness, an avocado wearing a coat, your junk drawer.

This book is an exploration in creativity.

Seriously, people. Get this book for your creative kid. He or she will love it! It’s been a BIG hit at my house.

Happy drawing!

family

Cairns

We took our boys for a hike at the Roswell Mill on the Chattahoochee River over the weekend. We live close, it’s free and in addition to wearing them out, the dog loves it. The weather was beautiful on Saturday and the water was cool. We saw a few people on our adventure but mostly we could enjoy each other and nature, including a water moccasin. gah!

We came across this cairn before finding the perfect watering hole to wade in for a bit. It was a great surprise. I love that someone took time to build this and I had to capture the sculpture in case it isn’t there the next time we return.

A little piece of zen in the city.

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family

Hondo

Perhaps the quiet in the house while the boys were at camp this summer was too much for me. Perhaps there was a dull ache in my heart because I’d had a fur baby at my side for 12 years and no longer had one. Lady was my companion. Yes, she shed like a banshee and her breath could kill you, but I loved my sweet girl, nonetheless.

Husband and I have always felt strongly about adopting rescue dogs (not that there is anything wrong with getting a pet another way – this is just our preferred method). We found Lady at the Atlanta Humane Society. She was one of a litter of 8 or so and, when her sisters and brothers ran up to us for attention, she sat quietly in the corner. She was the one. That was our dog. Over the years she had nicknames: Danger Dog, Crazy Running Puppy, Ladybug. All names from love. She kept us safe, she kept us company, she loved us, and we loved her.

Maybe it was the realization that my littlest would be in Kindergarten this year. The absence of my dog wasn’t as noticeable between the pre-school hours, shuttling kids to and fro, running errands and trying to squeeze it all in. So as the reality crept in that August would bring a quiet house for the majority of the day, I decided that I needed another fur baby. In fact, my heart demanded it.

A friend of mine volunteers a lot of her time with Atlanta Boxer Rescue and I decided that the organization was one I wanted to support. While we’ve never had a boxer, we spent a lot of time with them when we lived in town. Lady’s best dog buddies, Gus, Buster and Brutus, were boxers and we loved them dearly. They were big, sweet, lovable dogs with the perfect temperament to be part of a family with kids. I filled out the paperwork and was happy when we were approved to pick a dog. Our dog.

Much like Lady, I think Hondo* sat in a corner. He’s not your typical boxer. For one thing, he’s white with some brown spots. He’s a big dog, and looks serious and, all things considered, he’s very mellow. Being used to an old dog, mellow works for us. We had a date with him on Wednesday, slept on the decision (hey, no one wants to bring a dog home and realize they don’t have the right one) and he came home tonight.

It’s so nice to hear doggie footsteps behind me, or turn around and have a dog in the way. The wagging tail and the desire to have you scratch him in just the right spot by his ear. My heart has been singing! And not just for myself but for my boys. To see the pure joy on their faces as they pet their new dog and give him treats is priceless.

We still have some work to do. Hondo had heartworms. He’s had the full round of meds (thank you very much, ABR) and has been cleared, but we follow up in three months. We also have to put a few more pounds on him. He was about 20 pounds underweight when he came to ABR and we have 5 or 8 more to go but I’m confident we’ll get there.

And, of course, Hondo wound’t be here without the selfless work from the Atlanta Boxer Rescue. The volunteers that rescue dogs and shuttle them to the vet and keep them safe in their homes. Fosters that love an animal unconditionally even though they know that the fur baby they nurse back to health will leave with another family one day. I saw that love tonight as Hondo’s foster dad said goodbye to him. He held back the tears but they were there. My eyes welled up, too. From knowing his pain, from knowing my joy, and from knowing that this dog, a dog that had been sad and sick, was happy and healthy and finally coming home.

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*His foster dad is a HUGE John Wayne fan and named him after the movie, Hondo.

family, sewing

Something Old

My sister-in-law is getting married in July. The last time K was home, she dug through her Mom’s closet and came across  her Mom’s wedding dress.

Vintage is beautiful, and incorporating vintage into your wedding is super cool. I can’t say what I’m doing, exactly (check back in late July/early August) and I can’t show you. I can give you a sneak peak, though, and tell you it’s her something old, and will be WAY cool!

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family, friends

Winter Break Comes to an End

Winter break this year was eight days instead of six, thank you very much winter storm Pax. We did some fun stuff, but by today the kids and I were pretty much over each other. We met some friends and headed over to the Chattahoochee Nature Center. I’m glad we did. The kids needed the sun, and fun!

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We counted three turtles, and some ducks.

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And found this awesome tree called the Pawpaw tree. I’m going to have to print a copy and send it to my Dad, who we call PaPa. I think it’ll make him laugh.

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