Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Daddy Quilt

The Daddy Quilt...

Rowan's first quilt. Colors and (most of the) fabrics picked by Daddy, layout completed by consensus, everything else done by Mommy. Originally there was going to be a Mommy Quilt as well. The fabric was cut, so maybe down the road sometime.

  • Crib size (28x52-ish)
  • Basic patchwork
  • Machine pieced and quilted
  • Completed in 2014
  • Lives with me 
  • Fabric includes some Moda (not sure of artist), some Tula Pink, and some unknown. The orange-salmon fabric with white tallships on it was Leland's shirt in a previous life.
6 months pregnant

When I was putting this quilt together, I wanted the quilt to have a classic feel and I wanted to follow my basic kid quilt rules: comes together quickly, and nothing too fiddly. More seams = more opportunities to come apart, especially for something that's going to get washed multiple times. And not overly baby-ish. I wanted the quilt to be able to age up at least to some degree - to still be acceptable as a five year old's blanky.

I was drawn to simple patchwork squares. This design showcases the fabric, it's simple, timeless, and easy.


Basic patchwork is a chameleon that can be anything depending on the fabric choices.

Delicate and sweet...

Pretty By Hand

Chic and modern...

Waterpenny Quilts

Cheerful and sophisticated...

Red Pepper Quilts

And so on. For this quilt, Leland picked the colors and selected two or three fabrics; I filled in the rest. Neither of us wanted this to be a traditional pink-explosion "girl" quilt. I love the colors - teal, orange, and brown - and also love how the fabric shows off some of his favorite things, namely bicycles and the ocean.

We played around with the layout for a while before hitting on this arrangement, creating a secondary pattern out of the individual colors. It needed something more, so I added that single yellow square in the bottom corner. I love it.

I've gifted my share of baby quilts at this point, and I wasn't sure exactly how much use they got while the baby was small. But to my delight, we use the quilt all the time. The size is versatile and the weight is perfect for play and sleep. She's snoozing under it at this very moment. We use it for tummy time, naps, as a picnic blanket, and for growing up so fast *sniff*.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Twin Set

  • Name: "Twin Set"
  • Completed 2014
  • Baby+ size, about 36x36 (the two quilts are slightly different sizes)
  • Machine pieced (both)
  • Machine quilted (both), hand-tied (girl's quilt)
  • Baby gifts!
When my dear friend told me she was pregnant with boy-girl twins (!) I leapt into action. Ok, I waited until she was in her second trimester, then bought some fabric and then let it sit around for a while, then finally got around to actually putting something together after realizing that twins rarely go full-term.


I wanted to make coordinating quilts that weren't too "boyish" or "girlish". I also wanted to ensure that both kids would still like the quilts once they got old enough to buy into the social construct of gender, which meant an avoidance of too-girly patterns or colors for the boy quilt in particular. A good way to coordinate the quilts was to use the same fabric for each, and I love the currently-trendy yellow/gray/white combination (for instance, the sampler quilt below by Kati [From the Blue Chair].

Kati - From the Blue Chair

I wanted also to choose blocks that looked fancy but came together fast. I succeeded for the boy's quilt by picking the bento box block. This block is very easy to make, and has a neat geometric quality that I felt was decently masculine. It's a modern block, obviously based on the Japanese bento lunch box with its cute little divided sections for each food.

Bento Box: Diane AZ - Desert Colors
For the girl's quilt, I selected the great-granny block, something I've wanted to make for a while. The block cannot possibly be new because it's so blindingly simple (most variations of sewing fabric together have already been invented during quilting's looooong history as a craft), but this incarnation is named after crocheted granny squares. The quilting variation is often set on point. The block feels sturdy, yet sweet and somewhat old-fashioned. A nice square for a girly sort of quilt.

Great-Granny: Lori Holt - Bee in My Bonnet
Great-Granny: Emily - Simple Girl, Simple Life

In Progress

Unfortunately, I neglected to consider that sewing all those tiny little squares together for the great-granny squares would take a long (duh) time. I should have realized this because I had just finished a similar quilt, but oh well. This meant that the boy quilt top was completed in a couple days, but the girl quilt top dragged on and on. Though it was worth it in the end, because I love the finished product! (Also I love my friend and her sweet babies!)

I also ran into an issue when quilting. The boy quilted up like a dream, but the girl not so much. The fabric shifted to the point where I had large gathers in the fabric that were creating inadvertent, ugly pleats in the top. This may be because I basted the girl quilt a couple weeks later than the boy quilt, and in the meantime my own pregnant belly had made it much more uncomfortable to crawl around on the floor. So probably I didn't do quite as good a job getting the fabric in the girl quilt smooth as I pinned it. I pouted for a bit about this, then did just a couple passes of machine quilting to anchor the girl quilt sandwich, and hand-tied it to finish. In the end I really liked the effect, traditional and sweet to match the great-granny block.

I bound the boy quilt in blue and the girl quilt in a wine color, in a nod to the traditional blue vs. pink.

This is what my labels look like - I use an archival-quality pen to write them. They do fade a bit with washing (all of my quilts are machine washable) but remain legible.

Final Product

I love how these came out. They go together but are also individuals, just like a set of twin babies! And I love getting photos of the quilts in use for tummy time or cuddles. Honestly, I make quilts to be used. It's one reason why I enjoy quilting more than things like embroidery or cross-stitch: the final product is functional.

(Obligatory photo of Fletcher on the quilt)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Small Things

I want to keep a record of some of my quilting and embroidery pieces. Here's the first one I've chosen, Small Things.

  • Wall hanging
  • 17x17
  • Completed 2013
  • Hand embroidery in center; double circles in center attached by hand
  • Machine pieced and quilted
  • Many fabric pieces come from a mystery box donated to the Greenville Quilt Guild after the previous owner passed away. There's also some Moda (not sure of the designer) and Denyse Schmidt for JoAnn Fabrics. The background fabric used to be a body pillowcase.
  • Currently this lives with me, hanging above my sewing table.

  • Practice embroidery and using tissue paper to transfer patterns onto dark fabric
  • Practice sewing curves
  • Make a Dresden Plate block, a traditional block inspired by the colorful Dresden porcelain plates produced during the 19th century when Dresden, Germany was a center of the romanticism art movement. The origins of the block are in the late 1800s, and it was also very popular during the 1920s and 30s.
  • Use patterned fabric with rich, vibrant colors that don't match but also don't clash
  • Make something pretty!
All goals were met, at least in my opinion!


I used the (free) embroidery pattern from Amy Sinibaldi [Nana Company], and the (free) tutorial from Elizabeth Hartman [Oh Fransson] posted on Sew Mama Sew (free is a theme with me). Color inspiration came from the deep, complex, and vibrant esthetic of Holly DeGroot [Bijoux Lovely]. I followed Amy's pattern pretty much exactly, but used satin stitch to fill in the leaves.

Oh Fransson via Sew Mama Sew

Nana Company

Bijoux Lovely

In Progress...

The quote is from Mother Theresa.

The fabric pull was pretty easy and came together rapidly. I cut two of each fabric and placed them on opposite sides of the circle; and also tried to space out similar colored fabrics. For example, the two grey fabrics are spaced at 12 and 6 o'clock (dark grey) and 3 and 9 o'clock (light gray). Many of the fabrics were fussy-cut to feature particular images (the little bee!) or to frame the image within the spoke. I chose the background fabric several weeks after the rest of the fabric - it's not a neutral, which I love.
 Things I Learned
  •  Always read the directions carefully. Twice. Maybe three times. 
  • When you cut something too small, you can always slap on a white circle to cover the gap between the grey circle and the plate, and pretend that you planned it that way from the beginning.
  • When embroidering in public, people may ask what you are "knitting". Close?

And the Final Product...

Monday, November 26, 2012

An Evening With Anna and Leland

I know the blog's been kind of quiet lately.

This is because we don't do very much stuff.

Every night, we watch Netflix and I surf Pinterest and when I find particularly cute pictures of animals, I show them to Leland.

Leland loves cute pictures of fuzzy animals. Especially bunnies.


For the record, this is the picture he was looking at.

It was the second time he'd seen the picture in about two minutes.

And yes, that is a turkey leg he's gnawing on.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Movies You Have To Read

We don't have cable because we are cheap poor, and so we watch a lot of Netflix. A LOT. We're watching it right now! One of the great things about Netflix is the wide variety of documentaries and foreign films that are otherwise very difficult to find.

And just because no one asked... here's a list of my top 18 favorite foreign films that can be in your home instantaneously via the power of the internet. Maybe I'll do documentaries later if anyone's interested. (By the way, I have other posts I'd like to do about what we've been up to with pictures and stuff, so hopefully those will come soon.)

1. The Man From Nowhere

Bin Won stars in this Korean action movie about a mysterious pawnshop owner who goes on an EPIC RAMPAGE to rescue the little girl who lives next door from the drug lords/ organ thieves who have kidnapped her. Stick with it through the first half hour, which you will spend largely being confused and trying to keep track of the dozens of characters. Because: EPIC RAMPAGE.

2. Mother

Bin Won again, but this time he plays a mentally retarded man who is accused of a brutal murder in a small South Korean town. Hye-ja Kim, who is amazing, plays the mother who goes to incredible lengths to clear her son's name. As the plot progresses and more and more details are revealed about the night the murder occurred, your allegiances to all the characters will shift and twist until you aren't even sure who you're rooting for.
3. Trollhunter

A Norwegian movie which relies on the "found footage" style (for which I am a total sucker) to tell the story of a group of student filmmakers who discover a bizarre secret: trolls are real, and the government pays a select group of individuals to track and, if necessary, kill them. All of the troll behavior is based on Norwegian folklore.

4. Lake Mungo

This Australian movie is presented like a documentary about a family going through the grieving process after their eldest daughter drowns. It's quickly revealed that the daughter seems to be haunting the family's home. This isn't a scary movie for people who like gore or CG monsters. It's a slow, haunting meditation about grief and death that still manages to get in a couple good jump scares. Stick with it through the midpoint twist, and watch the credits.

5. Downfall

This one was pretty popular when it came out, so all I'll say is that it's a German movie about the last few days of Hitler's life in a bunker under Berlin. It's as good as you've heard.

6. Dragon Tattoo Trilogy: Extended Edition

The books were all right, the American movie was pretty good, but the Swedish originals are better, in my opinion. Particularly since Netflix has the extended version which was originally a six-part miniseries. Six hours of Lisbeth kicking ass and far less of Mikael sleeping with random women than this Mary Sue character got away with in the books. Even the last installment, which is largely about the Swedish justice system, manages to be interesting.

7. Valhalla Rising

This is one of Leland's suggestions, I haven't seen it. When I asked him, "Is this Swedish or what?" he said, "It's crazy. It only has like five words and they don't make any sense. It's pretty much just a crazy Viking acid trip with lots of punching."

8. Powwow Highway

Not a foreign movie, but if you want to step outside American culture, there's nothing better than this road trip buddy movie about and by Native Americans. The buddies here are a demoralized, angry activist and an even-tempered sacred clown* who act as excellent foils for each other while they undertake a crazy quest to rescue the activist's sister from jail. This movie is goofier than I normally go for, but by the end I was grinning and sobbing at the same time.

And if you like this one, watch Smoke Signals next, which is based on the incredible book 'Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven' by Sherman Alexie.

*Heyoka is a Lakota concept but the description fits the Cheyenne character perfectly

9. Sabah: A Love Story

Sabah is a forty-something Muslim woman from a conservative family who falls for a white man in this Canadian movie. It's a pretty standard deviation on the cultural clash romantic comedy sub-genre, but a sweet and satisfying one. Plus - older non-conventionally attractive female main character!

10. Strictly Ballroom

If you loved Moulin Rouge but haven't seen this Australian movie by the same director, Baz Luhrmann, then get on it. Especially if you are a dancer, ballroom or otherwise. A talented male ballroom dancer must partner with a clumsy newbie - will they have enough time to prepare for the upcoming competition?? Quirky and stylized, though not quite as visually arresting as later Luhrmann movies.

11. Bliss

When a young woman is raped, her family in rural Turkey decides that she must be killed for the sake of the family's honor. To carry out the deed they enlist a male cousin who has recently returned an emotionally-scarred veteran from the endless Turkish civil wars. Except the cousin can't do it, and the odd couple flee from the family's vengeance, ending up as crew on the small yacht of a sophisticated professor who represents the urban, modernized yin to the couple's rural, traditional yang.

I liked the movie so much I read the book it was based on, "Bliss" by Zulfu Livaneli. The book is a challenging metaphor for the fundamental urban/rural cultural divide in Turkish culture, and so I suppose I'd say that it's actually "better" than the simplistic movie - but I liked the movie better anyway.

12. Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Detective Dee is in jail for leading a rebellion against the Empress - who springs him loose when she needs him to solve the mysterious deaths of several court officials in this Chinese movie set in the Tang Dynasty. Beautiful sets and martial arts in the Crouching Tiger style. Detective Dee (or Di) is based on China's version of Sherlock Holmes, Judge Dee, who in turn is based on the actual real historical figure Di Renjie. 

13. Battle Royale

A class of high school students wakes up on an island and is instructed that they must kill each other or risk death themselves, with the last student standing crowned the winner. AKA: the Japanese book/movie that Suzanne Collins has been accused of plagiarizing with The Hunger Games. The movie is kind of nonsensical and not that great, with numerous plot holes (the book is much better), but don't tell me you're not curious about the controversy.

So... I know some of the slasher purists will get annoyed about this, but even if she copied the essential concept, who cares? They're like variations on a theme, a perfect example of how two authors with the same idea will create very different stories. The authorial intents and purposes are totally different. Battle Royale is an almost satirical exploration of teenage identity and utilizes extreme violence as a juxtaposition against the petty interests of the teenage characters. Hunger Games is a dystopian commentary on authoritarian control and the extremes of reality tv that at times takes itself too seriously.

14. Shall We Dance?

In Japan, ballroom dancing is a taboo activity for men. So when a businessman starts lessons, he hides his growing talent and passion from his wife, further deepening the divide between them. When the truth comes out, it will either restore their marriage or finally destroy it. A movie about finding joy in life.

15. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (documentary)

Normally I hate "sound bite" documentaries that feature an endless arrangement of people not saying much about a particular subject. But somehow in this documentary about legendary sushi master Jiro Ono, it really works. The camera work is luscious, lingering over every gleaming piece of glorious fish. And the man himself is amazing with his incredible life story and epically Japanese dedication to work.

16. Waste Land (documentary)

Hundreds of scavengers pick through each load delivered to Jardim Gramacho landfill in Rio De Janeiro, gathering materials that can be sold. For his latest project, Brazilian artist Vik Muniz photographs some of the workers and then enlists them to help create enormous versions of the photos from the garbage itself. The stories of the workers - and how many of them find new self-worth as they see themselves transformed into art - will make you first hate humanity and then love it again.

17. Burma VJ (documentary)

Burma, AKA Myanmar, AKA the Happiest Place on Earth, was at the time of filming a brutally restrictive military dictatorship that controlled all media sources. In order to document the truth of life in their country, both for the Burmese and for the rest of the world, independent journalists Burma VJ risked their lives to gather footage of the government's abuses. As riveting as any drama, except this is really happening to real people.

(Today Burma is technically under civilian control, though the military still retains a large amount of power.)

18. Unmistaken Child (documentary)

When Buddhist teacher Geshe Lama Konchog dies, his dedicated disciple Tenzin Zopa is dispatched to find the child who houses the lama's reincarnation. Tenzin Zopa is incredible - disarming, open, sweet, personable - I basically fell in love with him. And after Tenzin finds a child who may be the reincarnation of his master, I was enthralled by the implications, for Tenzin, for the child, and for the child's family.

So that's my list! What foreign movies on Netflix have you enjoyed?