Archive of ‘quilt’ category

Together…a mini (thought) quilt

Umbrella Prints Trimming - Together Quilt | a happy stitch

I have got this funny little fear of quilting.  Really, I break into a sweat standing next to an un-quilted quilt top. I like making the quilt top but it’s the whole putting it all together that makes me a basket case.  The actual quilting.  It seems an extra cruel final step, the quilting.  You work so hard on a quilt top and then every. single. thing. can mess up when you go to quilt it!  Ah, the pressure is insane.  I’d so much rather make a complicated jacket.

The problem is, I really, really want to make quilts.  Specifically mini quilts.  I love that a mini quilt can explore an idea or an aesthetic in a way that is creatively energizing far beyond garment sewing.  At the beginning of the year, I quietly decided I would make mini quilts.  Just for fun, as little breaks for myself. But, I haven’t followed through on that..until now.   (more…)

Aerial Quilt (or how much a mini quilt can break you down)

I have been super reluctant to share this quilt but it is time to tell its story because it’s a big one.  Meet my Aerial Quilt; a mini quilt designed by the fabulous Carolyn Freidlander. I started this quilt at Sew Down last April in Carolyn’s workshop. Wow  Almost a year ago.

Aerial Quilt

I finished it a long time ago.  In fact, it was the first project I finished when I returned from Sew Down last spring.  I started it with the intention of having it hanging in our home, a bold declaration *might* have been uttered about bringing more of my art into our home.

A couple of things got in my way.   (more…)

wooden quilt blocks

March! I’m positively thrilled you are here.  Winter might end after all!  I’m spending this week catching up on old projects that are more creative in nature… little less predictable and more creative adventuring.   Bit of whimsy here and a bit of “I wonder how this will turn out” there.

Wooden Quilt Blocks  Toys for Grown Up Who Quilt

I’m a true believer that inspiration and creativity require play. I was pondering this while planning gifts for two quilter friends, two people who are especially supportive of my creative exploration. I came across these positively stunning blocks for babies from babee and me, which featured half-square triangles.  I knew right away that blocks like that would be perfect for quilters who are always playing around with half-square triangles!  I got myself some blocks and made these wooden quilt blocks…toys for grown-ups who quilt! (more…)

Baby Girl Memory Quilt

People always say, “every quilt tells a story”.  I’m not the type to lay down quilt “rules” but that saying right there is a knock-down, full-on truth.   Quilts come together slowly and they take attention and care.  Consideration goes into color and placement; size and direction. Quilters find balance while maintaining interest.

Then there are the physical considerations. By the nature of their size, quilts sit in your lap and cascade over your arm.  Basting a large quilt means you are bending over and sitting on and touching and touching and touching. Once you arrive at the quilting stage for a large quilt you are practically wrestling.  It’s a physical and mental engagement on so many levels and for hours and hours.  Certainly, that in and of itself is a story.  Yes, every quilt tells a story.

Yet, even after the story of making the quilt has been told there is the story of the quilt itself.  This story includes the reasons why it is being made and for whom.  Why the colors call your name and what emotion the quilt is expressing…serenity, quiet joy, buzzing activity, expressive happiness, restorative calm, melancholy, thankfulness.  A quilt can tell you all those things.  It’s really amazing how much can be said with nothing but fabric.

Quiet Quilt made for an angel baby |made by a happy stitch

I have a quilt story to tell and I will be honest, I’ve started writing this blog post so many times but haven’t been able to finish it until now.

I’m so happy I was trusted to make this quilt but I really wish I didn’t have this quilt story to tell you. That it just never had been needed. This is a quilt that sat in my lap while I cried, my mute and emotionless sewing machine just waiting for me, its little light shining, completely unaware I need to take a moment and get it all out. I considered not even talking about this at all because I wasn’t sure how to share, I try to use this blog to put inspiration and joy out into the world.

But, it seemed a very important quilt story and maybe even one that touches lots of people. The kind of story we avoid telling but should be talking about.

This quilt honors a baby that didn’t live past her first beautiful hour.

Quiet Quilt for an angel baby | made by a happy stitch

Her name had been chosen, her nursery decorated and a collection of blankets and towels sat waiting with her name…boldly declaring a welcome to the world that she never got to see.  A handful of those blankets and towels came to me and I worked with the family to harmonize a few quiet, solid colors that would work alongside them into this scrappy, memory quilt.

The story of this quilt is one of sadness and grief but also, I hope, a little bit of healing.

Quiet Quilt in memory of the short life of a beautiful baby | made by a happy stitch

The rest of the story with the doctors and the autopsy and the unknowns, it isn’t mine to tell,   I only know about the quilt. I know it’s quietly and softly touching on a difficult moment in a family’s life.  I’m so honored to have been trusted to tell it.

surprise! the flower quilt was for grandma

flower quilt made by a happy stitch

Remember the flower quilt I was being all cagey about before Christmas?  My grandma got it.  My grandma is 91 and had a difficult year, she really deserved a quilt.  She had open-heart surgery several months ago.  Yes, a 91 year old lady had open-heart surgery.  Not just any lady but my grandma. My beloved grandma who believes, no matter what, that her grandkids are amazing.   That everything I sew is incredible and perfect even though she sews well enough herself to find all the flaws if she were looking for them.  My grandma who spent my childhood summers sneaking me Twizzlers while cooking in her swimsuit at their rustic lake house.  My grandma, who as a young pregnant woman, walked herself to the hospital during a snowstorm to give birth to my aunt.  Only stopping to sit down in snowbanks and wait through any contractions.

It seemed for a little while after her surgery, when her time at the ICU kept extending and intubation and pain kept her from doing anything but pleading with her eyes, that the doctors had forgotten this was my grandma.  She had been a healthy, woman just weeks ago.  The surgery was a pre-emptive decision based on the condition of her artery.  My mom blew up a picture of her from the church directory and tacked in on her door to remind them.   And, slowly, she got better.  Amazingly, she is now walking around and back to living on her own in her apartment enjoying wine and movie nights with her friends.  It still blows my mind that we could have lost her.

flower quilt quilted (from a happy stitch)

Despite all of that, everything heroic she went through, if I had just asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she would have replied like she always does.  “Oh. I don’t need anything”.  The unspoken end to her sentence being “…because I probably won’t be around much longer.”  It’s what she says every time.  So, I didn’t ask.  My grandma deserved something priceless and in my mind, the time and care it takes to make a quilt makes them all priceless.

flower quilt detail (from a happy stitch)

As soon as I saw the free pattern designed by Ellen Luckett Baker up on the Sew Mama Sew website I knew that was the one for her.  I was able to use special scraps, some from pairs of pajamas I’d given my mom or things I made for myself.  All of it worked its way into the quilt.

Of course, December was crazy for me with classes and markets and the quilting and binding of the quilt almost didn’t happen.  When I did get to it, it happened quickly and frantically.  The quilting is pretty simple, as a result.   I was right down to the wire.  For real.  Very down to the wire.  I finished the quilt, took it outside for these pictures and then had to wash it because of the snow (!).  While it was still hot from the dryer I stuffed it into a Priority Mail box and it arrived to Grandma the day before Christmas.  Phew.

flower quilt

I wasn’t there when she opened it but when we talked on the phone she was so thankful and happy to have it.  She thought it was amazing, of course.  (I know she is ignoring the larger than 3/8″ sewing errors.)  She also told me, in a whisper, “The quilt comes right back to you when I’m gone.”  Ha! I guess grandma got the last word anyway.

Love you grandma!  Stay warm.

flower quilt progress

flower quilt progressIt worked!  I followed Michele’s plan of quilting bit by bit and I finished the quilt top! These photos were taken quickly and ad hoc but they suffice as a display of my enthusiasm at accomplishing as much as I have.  The pattern is available for free on Sew Mama Sew and was designed by one of my favorite designers Ellen Luckett Baker from the long thread.   Most of the fabric I used is from things in my scrap basket and includes everything from heavier linens to lightweight voile.  It’s a real mix but I did closely follow how Ellen made her quilt. The grey fabric is a beautiful, soft linen-cotton blend that I bought at my favorite fabric boutique Rock Paper Scissors.

completed quilt top flower quilt a happy stitchNow, I just need to find some time to quilt and hand-bind this sucker before Christmas! Yikes!  And, oh yes, it’s a Christmas gift for someone (ahem), someone who might just read this blog.  Wish me luck.  Are you working on any covert handmade holiday gifts?  Are you dying to tell someone about it?  Share with me in the comments! No one will find out and we can get all giggly together!



on my desk and at the high line

flower quilt beginningsOn the docket right now?  In my little studio?  Plans and then more plans. That’s what there is.

For starters, I’m slowly beginning a new quilt.  I’m following along with the wonderful quilt design from Ellen Lucket Baker over at Sew Mama Sew.  I haven’t quilted, in earnest, for a while.  Probably not since making this and that was small-scale and came together quickly.   I sometimes forget how tedious quilting can be…piecing and piecing and piecing.  Compared to garment making, which comes together quickly and most tasks are new, not repetitive, quilting takes so much time.   But, it’s not just the time it’s the time spent doing the same thing over and over.   For this quilt I need 144 of these quarter moons…I have made fifty so far.  Fifty feels like so many and it feels so good to have made fifty until I look over at the stack waiting to be sewn and then 144 feels like a huge daunting task.  Yet, I love it.  I love how it all comes together and looks so pretty.  So, I keep going and circle back around, emotionally speaking.  It’s very schizophrenic.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this post  Michele wrote to herself after she finished her incredible hexagon quilt.  One of her brilliant strategies was to set herself a daily task and accomplish that bit and no more.  It helped her stay excited about the quilt and avoid burning out.

Once I have a goal in mind, I get very driven to get to it.  I want to finish.  I want to be able to tick the thing off the list.  It helps me when I need to be efficient but it’s my worst enemy when I need patience.  Quilts require patience.  Doing a bit at a time is hard for me.  I set a goal to complete 10 half-moons and just as soon as those are done I want to make more until I’m so sick of making half-moons that I could scream.  That would be the burn out Michele was avoiding.   So, I’m keeping her wise words in mind as I quilt and doing my very, very best to work on it piece by piece without going into the rage.

Come to think of it, Kids Clothes Week might just be my antidote.  Oh, how I love KCW!  I wasn’t sure if I would join in the kids clothes week for fall, it starts tomorrow, but I couldn’t resist.  I love all the new people I ‘meet’ and how inspiring it is to see what everyone is making.  Plus, the boys do need clothes right now.  They don’t like any of the pants and long-sleeve shirts in their clothes cabinet.

kcw fall 2013 planning and scheming

I pulled out all of my books to help me decide what to make and ended up deciding on patterns in Sewing For Boys and Little Things to Sew.  I really do not know of a resource quite like Sewing for Boys when it comes to making boy clothing.  I’m not crazy about every single pattern but I do like most of them.  This time I’m taking on a few challenges and also sewing up some tried and true items.

Now I will name everything so I am kept accountable:  From Sewing for Boys, I will be making 2 pairs of treasure pocket pants, 2 long-sleeve t-shirts probably with a freezer paper stencil design, and  2 luka hoodies.  From little things to sew, I’m planning on making 2 explorer vests.  The boys have a few patches and I have been wanting to make them vests to put the patches on that they can wear for collecting things when we go hiking. C is getting a little old for mama-made clothing so I’m hoping the vest will impress him.  Wish me luck.

Both C & J are really into wrestling and ‘playing fight’ these days.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much we redirect them, they always wander back to pummeling on each other.  It’s wearing out my patience.  I’m pretty at peace with this kind of play sometimes but all of the time?  It’s driving me batty.  So, yesterday when it started up again I decided we needed an adventure of some kind and we jumped on a train and visited the Highline in NYC.

the high line


If you don’t already know, the Highline is an old above-ground train track in Manhattan that has been converted to a walkway in the sky.  It’s fantastic.

feet on the high line


Adventuring always shakes things up and, sure enough, it quelled some of the misbehavior.  As is evident below, it didn’t exactly shake out all of the wildness from J.  That would just be too much to ask.

a happy stitch with her crew on the high lineWe had an amazing time even with the bits and bobs of unhinged wild boy activity.  The Highline is just incredible.  You can really see the city without the distraction of traffic and congested sidewalks.  It’s hard to believe this was our first visit.

C brought along his camera, it’s a Fujifilm Mini, it’s basically a mini Polaroid so the pictures print immediately.  It’s a bit expensive and you have to purchase the film for it but I’m really happy we have it.  C loves it and has gotten really into taking pictures.

C take J's picture

He was really bold on this trip.  I stopped to take a picture for a group visiting from Africa and when I turned around there was C with his camera, waiting for his turn to take a picture of them.  It was adorable!  He took pictures of murals and people and cool buildings.  He even insisted on taking a picture of me taking a picture of him.  He’s a budding photographer with this thing.  It does a mama-heart good to see it happening.

pictures of the fujifilm pictures

There is so much art work dotting the sky in Manhattan, and the Highline affords an incredible look at all of it. Here is a peek of some of it.

mural wall

sculptural art

family table art

I’m always really happy to have access to Manhattan and all of NYC.  We live only an hour away from it all, which seems just far enough to appreciate it every time we pop in.

Of course, we had to stop for pasta and pizza, too.  Photographers get awful hungry and mamas and papas need cappuccinos.

pesto pasta



cuddly, our new pint-sized herringbone quilt

we leave tomorrow on vacation.  (yes, I am aware that most people are preparing their children for a return to school.  no, we are not skipping out on education.  school starts super late around here.  so, you know, we might as well take a vacation.)   we are heading deep into the woods of nearby Pennsylvania.  we go every year to a cabin in the woods.  it has beds and electricity but no TV or much else for that matter…not even reliable cell phone service. it’s kind of a cheater’s camping but the point is, it’s quiet.  DSCN9231

we spend our days swimming, hiking, sitting by the campfire, reading, eating ice cream and being all together.   most importantly, I will be away from the computer, Facebook and my phone.  it’s a respite I need but find challenging.  it’s just hard for me to turn off the electronics when they are available.  so we escape and go out of range.

this little herringbone quilt will be coming with us.  it’s called a cuddly in our house when a quilt is small and doesn’t have a quilted top or binding on the sides.  J, our little guy, insists on it.  he has co-opted this quilt made a while back and it was becoming an issue.  as in, “J has a cuddly but I don’t!!”  mind you, J has a serious talent for attaching himself to things.  he sleeps with one teddy bear with no stuffing named bobo; one bear with stuffing name baloo; one stuffed llama; and one teeny tiny bear…and now his cuddly.   everything must be found before he can fall asleep.  he draws pictures of himself and all these things and stresses the importance of each item.  it’s adorable and a serious headache.  many evenings us grown-ups are scrambling around the house looking for one of those five items and we say things to each other like:

“what are you looking for? baloo?,”

“no, the one without stuffing. bobo.”

“oh.  last time I found him crammed into one of the pillows. did you check the pillows?”

it’s ridiculous.  I can’t wait to bring it all with us to the woods because nothing ever gets lost in the woods.


anyway, J loves his cuddly and so C wanted one of his own.  and, you know, there is packing to do and clothing to wash before we go on vacation so I opted to quilt instead because, basically, it is a lot more fun that those tasks that will actually help us leave for vacation.

I had started making several dozen half-square triangles a while ago, around the time of my tutorial on sew mama sew, and I figured the cuddly would be the perfect use for them.


the kid loves it! and, you don’t often get to say that about a quilt.  he’s so happy to have a cuddly.  I used a lot of scraps to make my half-square triangles and so I am thrilled to see them come together into something cuddly and lovable. everyone is happy.


it is a bit of a cheater quilt (we cheat at camping and we cheat at quilting, what can I say?) because to pull the quilt together I simply sewed the quilt top to the back and batting and sewed right-sides together around the edge leaving a small opening; turned it inside out and then topstitched around the edge to finish it.  the thing is, the reason this is such a cozy quilt (and hence an official cuddly) is because no quilting and no binding make it soft and, wait for it…cuddly! voila! it’s a cuddly.

of course, J might just run off with this cuddly too.  look at that face.  he’s considering it.


I don’t quilt very often these days.  a quilt is such a patient and meticulous thing to make.  making clothing is faster and that quick turn-around feels good sometimes.  but, I was definitely reminded while making this, albeit small, quilt that it feels so nice to quilt.  something about making a blanket that is bound to be snuggled with, maybe?  or perhaps it is just that making a quilt requires getting into a sort of methodical, repetitive rhythm?  it’s a bit of a mental escape, I think.  I’m not sure what it is about quilting.  but, I do know that I’m really pleased with this humble, little cuddly and it’s got me longing for more half-square triangle making and maybe a bigger quilt.  maybe?  I’m not sure….that piecing is so much work!  ah! anyone else get these crazy conflicts with quilting? am I alone in this crazy head house?

p.s. don’t you love my models?  so cooperate and cute, aren’t they?  don’t forget.  I pay them in peanut M&M’s.

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