Not Sewing

20171026_175008I have been Not Sewing, Like for months now.  I have been reading, lots and lots, and thinking.  Reading new cookbooks, health books, history books, farming books.  Sociology and education.  My Amazon order history is astounding and there’s still 215 items “saved for later.” I started to wonder if I was having a mid-life crisis, but those seem to be more superficial; revolving around stuff like missing your youth and buying expensive cars.  Which is nowhere on my radar.  Plus, my grandma just turned 98 and is in good health so I don’t really feel like I’m at mid-life yet.  a 2/5 life crisis?  Then one day the term came to me; it’s an existential crisis.  As in, I was really not satisfied with how a lot of things were going and I had to learn and figure out how to change all this.  How I eat and how I feed my family.  The sad realization that every food company, even those making “healthy” products, is looking to make a profit, not to make people healthy.  I’ve been not satisfied with how we manage our money and how we’re educating our kids.  Family relationships and how I spend my days, all reevaluated.  And then there’s the fact that we moved to rural Appalachian Pennsylvania and though we love so many things about living here, there are a few things about the community that make us feel like we’re swimming in the wrong pond.  But we keep moving and moving and never really find the right pond.  It’s time to “Be the Change,” I think.  Should be no problem, right?

But back to the sewing..

We’ve been slowly progressing through the renovation of what was meant to be my studio space, which meant that the small temporary sewing room is packed with all the weird stuff we had been storing in the studio space since we moved in.  So much stuff that it’s now more of a storage closet.  With no place to sew and supplies lost in a sea of boxes (and my mind caught up in my books), there was no sewing going on.

But (finally!) the studio is finished, pretty much.  Maybe a few more minor things will get done if our carpenter/distant relative has a chance this winter.  But I’ve started using it.  And even if the space is not quite at 100% (what ever is, really) it feels really really good to have a place to create (to think) and a place for my business again!  And I’m sure having the space set up will draw me out there to get to work.  And I’ll keep thinking.

Anyone else challenging the status quo in areas like nutrition, education, kid raising, finances?  I’d love to hear more.  Shoot me an email if you don’t want to comment here!

With Love,

Jessie

 

Retreat!

It’s the beginning of retreat season!  Yes somehow, I have managed to sign myself up for three quilt retreats in two months!  I’m not feeling bad about that.  I’m feeling awesome.  And yes, my co-parent is booking himself a getaway, hopefully as we speak.  Everyone needs some time for themselves.

( I guess this will do for natural lighting..)

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So this weekend is my first of three.  Here’s what I brought to work on:

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A dolly quilt for my littlest.  I forgot the backing, so I’ll have to be happy with getting the edge pieces set in and I’ll finish it at home.

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An improv quilt in weird colors. I first had the idea to put these colors together a few years ago- scarlet and lavender and marine blue and black and cream and off-shades of rust- I cut hundreds of strips in the fabrics I could find at the time, but it just wasn’t right.  The fabrics sat segregated in their special bin for a very long time, as I slowly added to and edited the collection.  Now I’m feeling pretty good that I have what I need to enact the vision.  The intent is to put it to bed this weekend and let it be whatever size I get it to by Sunday, but I’m willing to be flexible.

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A basket full of old shirts for some EPP.  So excited about this one.  But I’m excited about them all…

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A binding that’s ready for hand stitching.  I think I’ll work on this during show and tell.  Big stitches will get it done 🙂

I also packed a little cooler with lots of greens, beef stew, poached salmon, and kombucha.  And lots of tea and some super dark chocolate.  Meals are provided and so far they’ve been awesome, but it feels good to be prepared.  And to eat beef stew in bed at 10:00 pm.  🙂

I Feel Lucky

I Feel Lucky!

Guys, I have been needing to get this out in the open for a while now because I have so much to say!  I have mentioned here and there on Instagram that I had some kind of mystery illness.  Well a few weeks ago, I finally received word that I definitely have multiple sclerosis. Let me tell you, it’s felt like a long and rather crummy road to get to The Diagnosis.

I have been to something like 20 doctor’s appointments in the past 4 months, each one requiring me to drive 50 miles, figure out who is going to get the kids on or off the bus, who will keep the toddler, does hubs need to take time off work for this one, what will people eat if I am late.  Will I have to wait around there for testing? Can I drive myself home?  Thrilled to be DONE with all that.

 

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(Yes, asking your 13 year old son to take a quick photo IS awkward )

 

Let me tell you my story.

Very suddenly, at the beginning of November, I started feeling really, really tired.  I thought it was a bug, and took a few days to get some extra sleep.  I went into a minute clinic to get tested for anemia and thyroid function. But then I started experiencing tingling and numbness, which moved around and got worse over a period of several weeks.  I started to feel a little light headed, off balance, and then more severe vertigo set in.  My short-term memory (lack thereof) had been bothering me for the months leading up, and I realize now that that should have been a warning.  But I blamed it on living in a state of constant interruption as parents usually are.

The first several medical visits were so disheartening; I felt instinctively that something was wrong, and yet the practitioners were all dismissive of my vague list of symptoms.  I went to the ER, a couple general practitioners, OB/GYN, chiropractor, anything I could think of.  One particularly low visit, I was handed a prescription for non-drowsy Dramamine.  Thanks.  A month into visiting my general practitioner at least weekly to complain of worsening symptoms, he finally ordered an MRI, and six weeks in, I first heard someone utter “possible MS.”

I immediately got to researching, and was excited to find that many people are keeping MS in a state of permanent remission using super healthy dietary choices.  I was thrilled!  I LOVE super healthy food!  Because MS is an autoimmune condition, the first thing I could do was drop all the common allergens that make the immune system go crazy; gluten, dairy, and eggs.  After reading the story of Terry Wahls, a physician who reversed the progression of her MS, I started eating piles and piles of green leafy vegetables every day, the best quality veggies I could find.  I eat wild-caught fish and grassfed meat, and healthy fats.  Cup after cup of tea keep my spirits high, as does the occasional bit of super-dark chocolate 🙂

I started eating this way in the middle of December and after one week, my energy began to return.  After two weeks, the tingling had receded and disappeared.  Vertigo took longer, it was almost three weeks before I felt like it might be receding, and about 5 weeks before I felt like it was pretty much gone.  I still need more sleep than normal but as long as I get my sleep, I feel great!  Really great.  Healthy and light on my feet.

In the midst of all that self-care and feeling better, I continued with my testing because I wanted to know.  By the time I got the final word; yes, it’s MS, I was like “great, I can handle that.”

At the risk of being that annoyingly positive person, I feel lucky that this is the diagnosis.  have always been interested in healthy food, really interested.  I try to feed myself and my family the best way I know how and over the years that has variously meant sourcing raw milk, going gluten free, cutting out empty starches and packaged foods, buying direct from the farmers, and this past year it extended to raising our own chickens for the freezer and buying a pig from friends.

But sometimes, I got worn down, discouraged by the cost or the extra effort, or the petulant cries from this child or that who wants their comfort foods.  So we have, over the years, swung back and forth between a few super healthy months and then a few months where we’d go to the store and actually decide to buy two packages of Oreos because one would get eaten too fast.

So I feel lucky now that I have a NEED, an actual need, to buy the expensive wild salmon.  There’s a local guy who travels to Alaska to fish and brings it back here to sell.  Perfect.  I NEED to spend the extra time to get a giant salad on the table at every meal, and I NEED to banish packaged crap forever.  Or I’m going to become disabled and won’t be there for my family.  It’s good motivation.

I am working on adding the right supplements to my routine as well.  I feel so strongly that our agricultural soils are depleted by decades of chemical farming and much of our food no longer contains the nutrients we need to sustain a healthy life.  It’s a big job, though, finding the right balance, so that is a work in progress.  I’ve found a functional medicine doctor to help me with this and I’m feeling really good about the process.

I also have a need to make time to keep learning about our food so I can make better and better choices for myself and everyone around me.  I love that.

Thank you, if you are still reading this manifesto!  I feel so grateful for my community and I wanted to get this big story off my chest so I can get back to sharing the everyday 🙂

 

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(Random pretty fabric, thanks for reading!)

 

 

Vivian’s Quilt : Complete!

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Two years ago I was blogging this quilt extensively because I wanted to link up my progress with Jessica Alexandrakis’s Star Count. Kinda feels like a million years ago.

I have this thing where, I reeeallly have to push myself to finish things, even when they are 92% done.  So this had been sitting around unbound for quite a while.  The push finally came with an entry deadline I didn’t want to miss.  The quilt was accepted and last week hung at the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza in Philadelphia.  I have attended that show for more than a decade and entering something was always a goal.

New-ish to me was writing a little statement to go with the quilt.  It was hard to fit all the thoughts and emotions that go into a quilt into one little paragraph.  And the theme of the show was “evolving,” and I didn’t even get to touch on that idea.  Here’s what I wrote:

This quilt began in anticipation of my daughter’s birth. I pieced the stars while homeschooling my older kids, then, while nursing baby Vivian. Next I floated the stars in a sea of pale hexagons. So many hexagons, and most were made with sleeping baby on my lap. I began to realize that this quilt is a reflection on life; bright shining moments surrounded by many more ordinary moments. The ordinary ones are no less beautiful.

I used every one of the 75 words allotted and could have said much more about technique, ideas, and how the style of this quilt fits into the theme of the show.  I would have liked to hear more about the other quilts on display as well; wish there was a way for more to be said.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to go back and round up some progress shots of this, since it’s been so long in the making.

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Public School..

Well this happened today…

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After 6 years of exclusively home schooling, my youngest 3 are starting a new chapter.  Two are off to public school for the first time and the little to preschool.  Why now?  These girls have been dying for the whole school experience, riding the bus, making new friends, following a schedule, packing a lunch…  Now that we have bought a house and are a little more settled it was just the right time to let them have that experience.  I’m so happy for them!

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Little Vivian, I feared, would be bored to pieces without “her guys” to hang out with all day so I found a little preschool just for her.  She was so excited to go to school today. Although, she did not appreciate that she had to get there in the car.  Hopefully now she understands that school is at the end of the trip so tomorrow it will be less… loud.

So, where does that leave me?  With lots more time to blog for one 🙂  I’ve got my 8th grader still home with me but he is pretty self-sufficient compared to the others.  So, I’m really excited for what I can do with this new found bounty of time!

 

Courtyard Garden

Hi there friends!  I took some time over the weekend to update my Etsy shop.  I have been sewing for months with my favorite new shape, the 90 degree kites, and I thought it might be a good time to actually list them in the shop so you could sew with them too.

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Courtyard Garden Mini

I used the 2″ 90 degree kites, together with 2″ 45 degree diamonds, to make my #handpiecedminiswap2 quilt. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have already seen this- if you’re not on Instagram, I joined what is surely the only hand piecing swap going on right now and made this quilt for one participant, and received a mini quilt from another participant.  It was a blind swap, so we had to “stalk” our partners to figure out what they might like to receive.  It took me a long time to decide on something, but there were some beautifully colored yarns in my partner’s feed, and I used those as inspiration for the colors in this quilt.

 

My favorite part of this quilt is that dark raspberry border.  That and the geometry of the quilt made me think of a formal courtyard, so I’ve named this quilt Courtyard Garden.

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I decided to use some creative value placement to create a medallion layout, but there is actually an allover grid pattern going on with the shapes. 4-pointed stars or 8-pointed stars, depending on which way you look.

I’m working on another version of the quilt that highlights the 8-pointed stars.  I am so in love with these stars btw!  As a derivative of the above pattern, I’m calling them Courtyard Stars.

I have made downloadable design sheets for this pattern; one highlights the value placement of the medallion mini, and one has just a plain grid so you can do your own experimenting.  They are listed as a set in my Etsy shop.

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Courtyard Stars

 

To make either the medallion version of the pattern, or 16+ of the above stars, you will need:

Medium pack of 2″ 90 degree kites

Small pack of 2″ 45 degree diamonds

Downloadable design sheets

The pieced portion of the mini is 20.5″ square, and I recommend appliqueing onto a 24″ background square.

I hope you’ll give these shapes a try!  I’ll be back later in the week to show some of the other layouts you can achieve with these beautiful 90 degree kites.  Octagons feature prominently in these designs so first I need to get them ready and listed 🙂

Happy sewing!

Jessie

 

 

Home

IMG_7635Well we bought a house!  It is not a farm, so I’m tucking away that dream, for the moment. But it’s wonderful.  It’s old.  I feel so at home.IMG_7529IMG_7530IMG_7639 The view.  I don’t have my own land but open land is all around me.  I’ve realized over the years that I have a constant, almost subconscious feeling of unease when I look out my window and can’t see out into the distance.  Conversely, now that I can look out across the valley to where field meets mountain and mountain meets the sky, I feel peaceful.IMG_7619The studio.  It needs some plaster work first, but the old summer kitchen, upstairs and down, will be for me and my business. More peace.  And for now, there is a downstairs office where I can set up all my things.  IMG_7510IMG_7512And the living spaces… I am so happy.  It is cozy and comfortable and there’s enough room for all of us to spread out.  It’s hard for 6 introverts to live together in a modern house with an open floor plan.  We need a closed floor plan.  Separate spaces where we can retreat and be ourselves, not feel assaulted by whatever noise the others are making, but still with gathering places where we can come together.  It’s perfect.

Diabolical Jane: a Tutorial

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Hi Friends!  If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen the little flurry of activity surrounding this quilt… It’s a copy of a nearly 200 year old quilt that I first saw on a museum tour with the DC Modern Quilt Guild.  I was absolutely obsessed with remaking it in today’s glorious fabrics and it turns out some others are interested in doing the same (have you seen Melinda’s fabulous start?)  I’ll tell a little more of the story of my quilt when it’s finished, but for now I want to get the tutorial up so anyone who’s interested can join in the fun!

In the interest of keeping this free and not too lengthy, I’m going to describe the process I used to lay out and construct my quilt, but I won’t provide a diagram of exactly which fabric went where and which fabrics repeat where.  You can study the pic of the original and my photos for a sense of the design, then go ahead and make it your own!

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The original quilt, circa 1830. Photo from the book “Workt by Hand”

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Center of my quilt- borders yet to be added.

Notice that the quilt has a center X made of 5, 4″ x 11″ pieces on each arm, and then four identical large, layered triangles, each with a square at the apex of each layer and 4″ x 11″ strips radiating out from the apex square in two matching strips.  It’s easiest to lay out your pieces from the middle out, then we will construct the quilt from the sides working in.  The center ends up to be 74″ square and the original had 14″ wide borders.

The heart and soul of this quilt lies in the fabric selections!  The pieces are large and the sewing is easy, so take your time and enjoy playing with the placement of your fabrics.

It can be helpful to start with more fabrics than you need, so you will have options as you work.  This is a great place to use larger scale fabrics that you love and don’t want to cut too small.  Or fabrics that you bought but didn’t know what to do with because they are so bold!

I recommend cutting your fabric in a few batches, rather than pre-cutting the whole quilt before you start.  You are likely to shift things around and make new decisions as you build the layers.


 

Fabric Requirements:

Center:

20, 3/8-1/2 yd pieces (there are a few spots in my quilt where I repeated fabrics, so you may need up to 3/4yd of a few fabrics if you intend to copy the placement of mine exactly.)

1, 8″ X 12″ or 4″ x 20″ piece (middle 5 squares)

Border:

(I give requirements for a border all the way around, no cutouts like the original)

3 yds for a 9.5″ border

OR

4 1/4 yds for a 14″ border like the antique quilt has. (strips will be cut crosswise and pieced)


Begin:

From the 8″ x 12″ piece, cut 5, 4″ squares for the center of the quilt.  Lay these out on your design wall (or design floor!) in a checkerboard.

DJ first squares

Select about 10 of your 3/8 yd pieces that you want to use at the center of the quilt.  From each, cut 8, 4″x 11″ rectangles and 4, 4″ squares.

Cutting diagram

Cutting Diagram

 

Beginning in the middle, arrange your strips for the center X.  There are 5 strips radiating from each side of the center square.

DJ center X

Lay out center X

 

Then begin laying out your large triangles.  Choose one of your sets of squares to form the apex.  Add four strips radiating out from each exposed side of each square.  Cut 4 additional squares of the fabric you choose for the edge and place squares.

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By now you might have an idea which fabrics are working and which are not.  Now is a good time to select and cut more fabrics in the same manner:  8, 4″ x 11″ squares and 4, 4″ squares.  Continue to build your triangles towards the edges of the quilt.  Work in the squares you have cut as you continue.  I had fun and reduced the number of decisions I had to make by matching squares and rectangles in the same positions as the original.  As you get to the edges, you may need to cut a few more squares to fill in the spaces at the edges.

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Center before trimming

Refer to above diagram to see what your layout will look like when it’s done.  Once you are happy with your layout, you can start assembly.

Assembly:

1/4″ seam allowance used throughout

DJ step-outs

We begin in the center of each side of the quilt.  Sew the three squares together as shown.  For the next layer, line up your pieced square unit with one side rectangle as shown and stitch.  Sew the apex square to the other side rectangle, then sew that pieced strip to the other side of the pieced squares.  Continue building your side triangles in the same manner, piecing the strips before attaching them to the central unit.  Always align the pieces next to the apex squares.  The outside edges will be quite uneven.  Piece all 4 side triangles in the same manner.

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Sew the center X together into 4 long strips.  Attach 2 strips to opposite sides of the center square.

Sew 2 side triangles together with one center x strip.  Repeat with the other 2 side triangles and center strip.  Then assemble all 3 large pieces, aligning seam allowances around the center square.

Trimming:

DJ measureDJ step 3

Be sure your top is well pressed.  Measure and mark a dot at each corner, 8.75″ out from the seam and 2″ in from each raw side edge of the rectangle.  These dots should line up with the corners of the center square on each side.  Draw a line connecting these points, using anything you might have to get a straight edge.  I lined up several quilting rulers, which allowed me to also use the 45 degree lines to check that my edge was straight.  But even a broomstick would work.  Trim along this line.  Don’t panic if you have to trim a little further to get it all square. The original has missing points and it really doesn’t matter in this design.

Mathematically, the trimmed top should measure 74.5″.  Measure yours across several points to figure out how large to cut your border!

Add Border:

For a 9.5″ border, simply cut your 3 yard piece into 4,  10″ strips parallel to the selvage.  Trim two strips to the same length as your center width measurement (74.5″)  Attach borders to two opposite sides.  Cut the remaining strips to your measurement + 19″ (93.5″).  Attach borders to the two remaining sides.

For a 14″ border, cut 10, 14.5″ strips across the width of the fabric.  Sew these together in two sets of two and two sets of three.  Cut the shorter strips to your top measurement (74.5″)  Cut the longer strips to your measurement + 28″ (102.5″).  Sew the shorter strips onto two opposite sides first, and then sew on the longer strips.

Note this quilt is susceptible to wavy borders because of the bias trimmed edges.  For more help getting your border on correctly, see this fabulous tutorial from Anjeanette.

I hope some of you will decide to join in the fun and make a Diabolical Jane!  Here’s a downloadable line drawing of the quilt for adult-coloring fun:

Diabolical Jane Line Drawing

xo,

Jessie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Solstice

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Did you/ will you celebrate the Winter Solstice this year?  Here on the east coast of the US it was at 11:49 last night; for Europe it was early this morning. The longest night and the shortest day of the year.  It’s not an event my family has ever really celebrated, but every year I imagine us making the time to mark the event. I picture a day of peace and simple beauty. A bundled-up nature walk in the low afternoon sun, a crackling fire, a special homemade stew. New pajamas?  We did have a lovely soup for dinner last night but otherwise we didn’t break from the rush of this season.  Next year, we keep saying…

I did gather myself together long enough last night to list my Winter Solstice template pack in my Etsy shop.  I love how the star looks almost like a snowflake.  My sweet friend Carissa came up with the name for me many months ago and so I thought I should list the templates for sale in honor of the night.

Winter Solstice

Technical details:

There are three pack sizes, containing enough templates for 1, 2, or 9 stars.  The star finishes 17″ high and 15″ wide, and can be appliqued onto an 18″ pillow or quilt block or set together with 1″ hexagons and 1″ 60 degree diamonds.  Or, it can “float” alone in a sea of as many 1″ hexagons as you like!  If you want to make the 58″x64″ layout shown below, you will need a large pack of Winter Solstice stars, a large pack of 1″ hexagons, and a small pack of 1″ diamonds.  You also need a few 1″ equilateral triangles for the edges, which I include for free with your package.  If you are doing a smaller layout and only need a few diamonds/ triangles, let me know in the notes to seller and I’ll just throw them in for free 🙂

Winter Solstice Layout

So here she is, Winter Solstice.  If you have any winter solstice traditions or have heard of any nice ones, I would love to hear about it!

 

Orange Peel Inspiration

Now the fun post!  Here’s a few ideas for arranging your orange peel shapes.  If have seen (or sewn) an orange peel project you like, please link to it in the comments!

The traditional way to use orange peels is to applique each one diagonally onto a background square. They can then be sewn together in a myriad of different designs.  When used to fill the entire space, an X and O pattern starts to appear:

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4-patches with alternating plain squares make a flower pattern:

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Playing with where the pattern starts and ends brings out a stronger diagonal pattern:

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especially when you use alternating colors:

And why not put the squares on point?

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One of my favorite things to do with orange peels is to not applique each one to a background square, rather to make free form designs; flowers, feather, scales, all sorts of organic designs can be suggested by this shape. This one I made a couple of years ago now, starting from the corner and working out.

Here’s my recently completed free-form flowers:

And a few more bits and bobs still mostly in the dream-phase:

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I’ve also been thinking about combining different sizes to make a more complex flower; if you get to that first please do send me a picture.

This concludes my little series on Orange Peels; Please see the first two posts How to work with Orange Peel Templates and Tutorial: My Applique Stitch, and visit Faraway Road or my Etsy shop if you’d like to purchase Snowflakes Freezer Paper Shapes.  🙂

Have a lovely weekend!

Jessie