Monday, April 30, 2012

My Sampler is Finally Finished!!

My Life Expanding Sampler

Oh my goodness...I'm finally finished!
I was beginning to wonder if this day would ever come. I never gave up on it. I just kind of pushed it aside for a bit. My original intent was to learn something new with each little segment. I really didn't want to just fake it and add things I already knew. So, instead of keeping to my schedule, I kept to my intent. I'm so happy with all the little things I learned and I love the charm of the finished work. I've been seeing my sampler, unfinished on Pinterest. I really hated that it wasn't done, but I was so thrilled with how it kept showing up on some really neat boards.

The best part of this project, besides sharing it with you all, is all of the new things I learned. I picked up some fun stitches such as the picot and cast on, I tried ribbon embroidery for the first time, and explored hand applique. It was fun using traditional stitches in a new way. In the end, I have a piece of needlework that I really love.

I hope you join me in my next project!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dreaming drives doing

How often do you pick up a book at the store and drool over book featuring the hottest new or old technique. You bring the book home and read the articles and pour over the images. Eventually, you put the book down so you can return to your current project. The book stays near by. You pick it up again and again until you find another book and bring it home. You read about a new technique. Maybe even you bring a few fabrics home that you would need to try that new technique. It goes on your pile of fabrics and eventually you find a purpose for it. Perhaps you wistfully think of that technique you didn't have time to learn. Maybe all those techniques end up in that pile in your brain and it fades into just another dream you dreamt but didn't realize.

I am the queen of this routine. I do it again and again. I have many books and in my mind, I've pondered so many projects I meant to start. I think about how much I had wished I had learned a technique or two to use in a new project I've started. I am a dreamer. I have a lot of books with luscious pictures of lovely techniques I've yet to learn. I think I've come to an impasse in my life. Its time to start doing.

Sometimes I look at a technique and think of how I can mimic it. My way is full of shortcuts. It allows me to tinker without learning. Somehow, the results never quite live up to my expectations. Why, well, its because I cheated. No one was hurt by my shortcut, except me. I failed to learn. I leaned on old habits and tired techniques. The result is that I've missed learning something special and valuable. Once learned, a technique becomes a part of who I am as a creator. Why would I choose to skip such a lovely learning experience? Enough is enough.

This week I found a wonderful book. Its called "Beautiful Botanicals, 45 Applique Flowers & 14 Quilt Projects" by Deborah Kemball. It was over my book budget and I'm well over my sewing budget, for the month. I just couldn't resist. I saw it 4 days ago and I could not get its beautiful pages out of my head. So I found a coupon and splurged. Perhaps because it was a forbidden purchase it became even more special.

Today I took one flower from the book and added it to my sampler. At first, I thought I wouldn't have the patience to learn traditional applique. All those tiny turned down edges and minute stitches to hold down all those edges. Yikes! I can't do that. The little fussy cuts, what if I don't have the right fabrics? The twisting and tangling thread. I don't feel like dealing with that mess. I can't justify the time it would take to learn this. I have too many projects waiting to get done. But in my advanced age of 50 something I've decided that I hate that old adage, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." I am not a dog. In actuality, I do have the time and its important that I learn something new every day of my precious life.

It was so enjoyable to let go of my old preconceptions and really learn something new. Not only that, but I think I could get very good at this! I took note of the advice she gives on how to use the fabric. Fussy cutting allows you create complex designs from simple shapes. I used freezer paper templates and my iron to tame those little edges. Tiny clips and patient stitches became a interesting challenge. With the help of an old tweezers to manipulate bits and pieces that defied my fumbling fingers, I was able to tack down challenging curves and bulky tips. It was fun!

Find this tutorial in the gallery list called, Hand Applique-Bold and Beautiful.
What was even better was the feeling of satisfaction that flowed through my creative spirit. I felt so proud of my efforts to master something I had avoided for 30 years of sewing. I loved it and I can't wait to do more. Because my flower, a cute little pansy, needed to fit onto one of the last empty spaces on my sampler, I had to work even smaller than the book templates. I told myself, that if I could conquer such a tiny little piece of fabric, I could say that I really did something. I know its just a decoration on 3 square inches of fabric. But to me, it was so much more.

I broke through the barriers I had held on to for such a long time. I found out that I am patient enough to learn this. I learned that taking on a challenge is not a recipe for disaster, it is an opportunity to feel pride. I found that my fingers could manage tiny stitches that frustrate me when I use them for other projects. For this technique, those very same stitches work perfectly. I also learned that one is never too old to learn. In fact, learning is a daily supplement for growing as a craftswoman and as a human being.

So the next time you bring a book home, do more than open it. Try it. Doing is much more satisfying than dreaming. Dreaming only involves thoughts. Doing involves all of the good things we need to feel as a creative individual. Dive in. Try it. If it doesn't work out for you, well that is something you have learned as well. The joy of creating involves many factors. Dreaming is a very important element in the creative process. In fact, without the dream, there would not be imagination. Its in the thinking of the dream, the anticipation of its success, the time figuring out and problem solving,that is where the joy lives. Its in the learning that dreams become alive. So go ahead. Learn, live, and love what you do.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I've been busy...

Sorry for the lapse in posts. I've been blissfully busy creating. It seems that the ideas are coming faster than the time I have to sew. I've had a lovely time creating with new fabrics from 2 Marcus Fabric lines.
I am lucky to have a local quilting shop and a big craft store nearby. The quilt shop has nothing but amazing sewing machines and quilting fabrics in every style and color along with amazing batiks, flannels and some wools. They teach classes. They always welcome you when you come in. They are small but they their walls are covered with lovely quilts, quilted projects, the newest quilt techniques and lots of other fabric enticements.
My favorite new fabric line is the bright and cheerful 1930's inspired Grandmother's Garden prints. Here are some pincushions from that line-

When I was young, I would walk down to the corner where my grandma lived. She seemed to always have time for my thoughts or requests for an afternoon snack or even some time with her at her Singer sewing machine. You know, the black one with the cool wheel which sat nestled in its own little table.

My dear grandma wore sweet apron/house dresses. Button tabs connected at her shoulders. The fabrics were worn soft with bright cottons in sweet floral patterns. Often, they were spotted with her latest kitchen concoction of cooked pudding or chicken gravy from scratch. The best thing about her apron is that her lap often beckoned me to sit for a while. I loved the feel of my grandmother's lap and her gentle hands and soft voice as she talked to me about my day. These fabrics remind me of her and those magic aprons around the corner from my home filled with too many siblings.
I found this picture of a similar apron on a site at She has a lovely apron poem on this page which was precious.

Back to the quilt shop and my new fabrics....
I received a request for a pincushion in civil war inspired fabric prints. At first I wondered if I could ever be inspired by something inspired by a period of war. One trip to the shop and I realized I already had been drawn to those lovely patterns and muted colors. So I added a few more colors and patterns to my stash and off to the machine I went.

I love this simple pincushion pattern. Its made from simple wedges sewn from tip to tip. I like to create a round little pillow which I stuff with emery. I add that pillow to the sweet spot of each of these pincushions. When used, the needles and pins travel thru the fiberfill and into the emery. The emery is a natural cleaner and sharpener.

Well back to work... Check out my Etsy Shop. I have more fiber brooches listed. I've also added some new art yarn assortments. I created a new apple and pear, but Robin bought them so quickly that I didn't have them in my shop more than a day. Here they are...

I wish I had the time and newer fingers. I'd make a lot more of these. These apples allow me to create something unique to me and my embroidery style. They are so lovely, but hard on my fingers. Fifty year old fingers really don't enjoy all that poking and pulling. You would think that embroidering on cotton would be a cinch. Wool and the way the needle slides through its open weave, is my new favorite medium for stitching. Wish I could combine this pattern with that material. I'll have to work on that idea.

Well, thank you so much for stopping. I am well overdue for a tutorial and I promise to get on that soon. Happy stitching!