The Art of Friendship.

Dear friends,

I’ve been a busy bee lately. Not just with the sewing and quilting the projects I shared in my last post, but also spiffing things up around the house.

If 2017 was the year of the Great Clean Out, 2018 is the year of the Great Spruce Up.

I don’t know . . . “spruce up” sounds so blah. And I’ve been anything but. I’ve been energized and energetic in a way I haven’t been in a long time. It feels so good to tweak my home. It’s a process that gives me great joy and creative inspiration.

The main project I want to show you today is an art refresh. Here’s what my living/dining room (can you say “open concept?”) looked like in December 2016.

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The sofa you see in this photo was moved to the den and I purchased a new, more modern one last year for this space. The old sofa is currently at the upholstery shop being recovered in a plush navy fabric that will be perfect for the cozy den (recently refreshed with a new coat of paint, new drapes, and a new light fixture, all of which I’ll show you in a big reveal when the sofa returns).

But what I really want you to notice today is the art above the sofa. When we moved into our home 7+ years ago, those large panels were left behind by the previous owners and were blank. I thought they were so odd — both the burlap covering and the blankness — then I realized they are acoustical panels meant to absorb sound in the vaulted living space.

When an artist friend from Oklahoma visited shortly after we moved in, I mentioned how creatively stumped I was by that large stretch of wall space and asked if she’d be interested in a commission to create art for it. (I envisioned a triptych, probably square, probably abstract). My friend Alisa hesitated for probably half a second then declared “Let’s paint the panels you have!”

And so with nothing more than leftover black interior latex paint, an old trim brush (not an artist’s brush) and some red craft paint (pretty much all the supplies I had on hand), Alisa created the beautiful art you see in this photo. She painted on my front lawn. In about 20 minutes. Her husband Greg, who suggested the inspiration for the design after noticing a painted tray sitting on my ottoman, was kind enough to re-hang the panels for us by perching on a rickety ladder that Mr. Mom steadied. It remains the best housewarming gift I’ve ever received.

But as my home has slowly evolved from a mix of colors, some of them warm and earthy, to a cooler, predominately grey-and-blue palette, the art just didn’t jive. When a scheduling quirk meant that I’d be driving to Tulsa two weekends in a row for family occasions, I immediately texted my friend and asked if she’d re-do my gift if I brought the panels to her this time. Of course she said yes. And the result delights me.

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Here’s a close-up view of the second panel.

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The project was fraught with complications but I managed to make it work. The first was fitting all five panels in my two-seater sports car for the first trip to Tulsa. (The largest panel is 5-foot by 2-foot and fit in my car with a mere 1/4″ to spare.) The second was a painting disaster of my own doing. I had told Alisa I would paint the panels grey to save her time, but it was a disaster. (The paint just blobbed on the canvas and wouldn’t spread. See the evidence below.)

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I texted Alisa in a panic, very nearly in tears. She assured me all was not lost and encouraged me try gesso (a product artists use to prep their canvasses). Of course I had to drive two hours to find it (since I didn’t have time to buy online and wait for delivery), but it worked like a charm. It worked so well, I left the canvasses as is and never painted them gray.

For the second trip to Tulsa, instead of traveling alone, my husband, my son, and my son’s girlfriend were joining me. I had planned to rent an SUV for the trip but availability was limited in my small town. I managed to secure the only available vehicle for that weekend (a Chevy Traverse), and after a little logistical planning and a trip to the rental lot to measure the cargo space, I determined it would fit my entire family, our luggage, and the art. Thank goodness for stars aligning!

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If you compare the first photo to the second, you’ll notice the changes — other than the sofa — are pretty subtle. I edited the walls a bit (removing a few framed pieces) to make things a bit more airy. I changed out the chandelier shades from burlap to grey linen. I bought new grey and white drapes to replace the seafoam ones and I removed the blue window shades.  I painted the dining room chairs grey. I simplified the rugs from a layered look to a single rug. I switched out an end table and added some live plants. And I moved the bar from a display configuration on the desk behind the sofa to a hidden cabinet in order to visually declutter the space.

And just in case you’re curious, here’s a couple of shots of my mantle and the part of the room you can’t see from the other photos:

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I’ve now turned my attention to the master bedroom where I’m doing another refresh with new paint, light fixtures, rugs, etc. It’s not finished but rest assured I’ll reveal that space, too, just as soon as I get can.

With gratitude {for friends and helpers},

Joan, who wouldn’t really mind being called JoJo, in keeping with her favorite interior designer Joanna Gaines.

 

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A beautiful backlog.

Dear friends,

My blogging has been more than sparse lately, but what hasn’t taken a hiatus is my sewing. Between quilts and small fabric projects, my nights and weekends have been happily filled with a variety of creative diversions.

I received an email yesterday from my preferred long-arm quilting shop that two of my recent creations were on her schedule for next week. I can’t wait to get them back home for binding so I can photograph them for you before shipping them to their happy recipients.

I started thinking about the page on this blog that I devote to my quilts — and about how far behind I am on showing you my finished products — so consider this a catch-up day. Here’s what the Magpie has been up to:

You might recall I spent 2017 purging, cleaning and organizing my home. While I didn’t stop sewing all together, it did mean I focused on small projects. My new favorites are baby quilts, pennant banners and pillows.

Here’s one I made for the newborn boy of a co-worker. (This was the first time I used this particular pattern and I liked both the geometry of the design and the opportunity it affords to showcase larger pieces of selected fabrics.) His name is Grayson and I personalized it on the back (as I often do).

I tried my hand at a technique known as EPP (English Paper Piecing), not to be confused with Foundation Paper Piecing (featured in this quilt), and discovered that these miniature hexagons were not only soothing to handstitch, they make adorable pillows.

Here’s one I made for myself:

And one I made for a lifelong friend:

And one I made for another friend who recently remodeled her home:

And another one, this time a Christmas gift for a colleague.

I also made myself a slipcover for my ottoman. (I’m getting better about sewing the occasional project for myself.)

And then I got distracted by a pennant banner kick. I sewed a few in vinyl for friends to decorate their outdoor seating spaces. Here’s just one:

And here’s one I made for myself:

And here’s one I made for my cousin’s grandson, with a baby quilt to boot:

You might have noticed I had a little fabric left over from Grayson’s quilt and I incorporated it nicely in Hunter James’ quilt.

The biggest project I’ve worked on that you haven’t seen is a full-size quilt for my friend Julie. Several years ago, I committed to making a quilt for each of my lifelong friends that I call the “Js.” Johnna’s quilt was the first one I completed and you can see it here.

This quilt for Julie came about because I had started one but stalled for a variety of reasons including the difficulty of the pattern. Both Julie and Janet (whose quilt is still in progress) were getting antsy. One night during a sleepover with my friend, we were lying in bed talking about the promised quilt and Julie suggested I take an easier approach. She showed me several quilts on Pinterest that she liked and encouraged me to abandon the hard quilt for an easier one.

I can’t say this one was easy — but I had a lot more fun working with these cheery fabrics than the first attempt.

I’ve also enjoyed saving my fabric scraps and repurposing them into twine. I learned how to make handmade fabric twine from a Pinterest tutorial. Besides being thrifty, it looks lovely on wrapped packages.

By the way, it’s not like all I’ve done is sew and clean my house. Another pursuit I haven’t written about here is that I learned to ride a motorcycle. Specifically, a Beta Xtrainer 300 (a model perfect for off-roading). Here I am fully “geared up” after a ride in the woods.

And here’s Mr. Mom with both our bikes after a challenging ride in the Mark Twain National Forest.

By the way, that’s my bike on the left. Ain’t she a beaut?

I know dirt bikes don’t really have any relation to quilting, metaphorically speaking. (Or philosophically speaking. Or existentially speaking. Or any kind of speaking.) But I like ’em both. And they both give me a little thrill, so that’ll have to do.

With gratitude {for the great luxury of spare time},

Joan, Hoarder of Fabric, Matriarch of Motocross, Princess of Pastimes