Block by block.

Dear friends,


I enjoyed a quiet day alone yesterday. Kate went to a wedding while Mr. Mom and Parker took their dirt-bikes to a wilderness area for an afternoon ride.  So I took advantage of a long stretch of time to nearly finish Kate’s quilt top.

I still have some ric-rac and two borders to put around the blocks, but I’m awfully close. I just might finish it this weekend. Then all I have to do is to piece the backing before shipping it off to be quilted. I took this photo as daylight was fading so you can’t really see the fabrics very well. It looks better in person — bright and colorful but not garish. When it’s all finished, I’ll take photos in proper light so you can see the subtleties of the prints.

I chose this quilt pattern because it’s a little rustic and seems old-fashioned to me. While I’ve always appreciated the handiwork required of intricate and artistic quilts, my favorites have always leaned toward the folk art variety — something you  might have seen 70 years ago on an iron bed in a cabin in the woods. I like the contrast of the rustic pattern with the bright and modern fabrics I selected, especially since my girl is a big fan of bright colors. I think it will look terrific in her college apartment next fall.

You don’t have to look very close to notice my many mistakes. A friend’s mother is an expert quilter — expert, as in she’s had several quilts selected for the prestigious Paducah show. She’s been giving me encouragement and she recently told me every quilt has a “God” block — that one block in a quilt that’s imperfect. (Some quilters call it the “humility” block because when you leave it in, it shows your humility before God.)

That made me laugh when I heard it because I was pretty sure I would be making about 42 God blocks, which makes for one divine quilt.

With gratitude {for the light at the end of the tunnel on my first big sewing project},

Joan, who’s already itching to move on to quilt #2, a project she is excited to reveal soon

First I swooned. Then I stitched.

Dear friends,

While searching the internet recently for embroidery inspiration, I stumbled across this creation . . . so charming, so lovely, so startlingly original that I swooned.


Source: Etsy

For days, I was obsessed with the notion of a stuffed pear. In the same way I get obsessed with an elaborate dessert and plan it over and over again in my head, I was inspired by this delightful combination of crazy quilting, embroidery and fiber art. I was determined to replicate the design.

So I spent Saturday afternoon making a prototype. Because I had no idea if I my experiment would be a rousing success or a colossal failure, I kept it simple — where simple equals starting at 1:30 pm and finishing at 7:30 pm. So, yeah, even simple art takes time. But I was happy with the result.


I had no idea before today that six hours stitching nothing more than a pincushion (or a windowsill tchotchke) could be such a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Had I adorned my pear as lavishly as the inspiration photo, I would have spent two or three afternoons stitching. Today, I just wanted to finish. To know whether or not my fading eyesight and increasingly stiff fingers could pull off such a thing. The answer, apparently, is yes, so next time I’ll take all the time I need to bling my baby up.

Speaking of next time, I recently ducked into a flea market on my way home from work and found a vintage quilt for a song. It was terribly tattered around the edges and ripped down one side. But at $17, enough of the quilt was intact that I couldn’t pass it up, especially since the top was made from a lovely shade of faded cotton the exact color of Jadite. (If you read this post last year, you know I have a kitchen full of Jadite dishes. The serene seafoam color associated with these vintage dishes is a shade I simply can’t resist.)

I envisioned cutting up my tattered quilt for a number of craft projects, including another pear pincushion. But before I cut into my vintage treasure, I had to know I could pull it off.  Today’s prototype pear made from inexpensive fat quarters purchased at Wal-Mart gave me the courage I need to stretch my sewing wings a bit more.  Now I’ve got more designs than I can keep up with swimming through my mind, all competing for my limited weekend  crafting time.

The good news is I won’t be bored for pretty much the rest of my life.

With gratitude {for my kickin’ new sewing machine, limitless inspiration, and enough spare time to pursue my textile dreams vigorously},

Joan, who thinks the internet is the coolest thing ever for crafters and is especially grateful to the lovely people who post free patterns and tutorials like this one

A stitch in time.

Dear friends,


For as long as I can remember, I’ve known how to work a needle. I don’t recall who taught me . . . my Gram probably. I remember as a very small child stitching crooked lines on scraps of fabric my Gram saved. By the time I was in Junior High, which is where I learned to machine sew in Home Economics class, I had already created intricate and colorful embroidered designs on most of my bell-bottomed jeans. I don’t have a single photo of those groovy butterflies and peace signs and flowers, but I wish I did.

(As an aside, the fact that all girls in my generation learned to sew in public school while none in my daughter’s generation did seems to me a clear sign of what’s wrong with education today. There. I said it.)

In high school I abandoned needlework in favor of sewing clothing. I never got terribly accomplished at it — not like my friend Alisa who made her own wedding dress — but I did well enough on simple skirts and dresses that I wasn’t embarrassed to wear what I made. My piece de resistance was a bright yellow bikini I made the summer before my junior year.

In college, I ditched my sewing machine and picked up my embroidery needle and hoop again. I went through a protracted preppy phase and I spent hours stitching monograms surrounded by tiny flowers while watching Cagney and Lacey, and Simon and Simon. I discovered cross stitch, too, thanks to my college roommate who was a master. (For the record, college was an extremely artistic period in my life. I learned to construct Shaker boxes by hand,  I painted Colonial style floor cloths, and I perfected my calligraphy skills. I didn’t study much but, hey, I was mastering the art of the craft. I dreamed of going to film school, where all my artistic sensibilities would flourish, but apparently my destiny as the female Spielberg was not meant to be.)

Young motherhood was another prolific period in my life. I sewed curtains and pillows and nursery linens and baby clothes.  I aspired to learn tatting and smocking but never quite found the time.

By the time my kids were in school, I put away my needles in favor of paper crafts. Not long after, my sewing machine broke and, somehow, more than a decade passed when I didn’t so much as repair a hem.

I missed it terribly, though, so a couple of weeks ago, I bought a sewing machine on the spur of the moment while shopping for glue in Wal-Mart. Next thing I knew, I was down in the basement sorting through unorganized craft supplies in search of my basket of embroidery floss and needles. I stumbled across a crewel kit, a birthday gift from a friend back home, and — again with the spur of the moment — I started stitching for the first time in years.

You can see from the photo above my stitches are awfully rusty. I don’t mind. I have a feeling they’ll come back soon since I’ve got my next three projects planned.

With gratitude {for timeless skills, learned young and practiced old},

Joan, who would love to hear anything you know about needlework