Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Craft Room Redo

I've said this before and I'll say it again: my husband is AWESOME! While I was visiting my parents this summer, he repainted my craft room.  And let me tell you, this was no nagging and begging him to do it, he volunteered for this project.  And then, THEN! when it was all beautifully painted, he organized it.  I am a collector, and an unorganized one at that.  I love my craft room, but even I was a little overwhelemed by all the materials it contained.  Now, there is a place for everything and everything in its place.  I love it so much, it makes me so happy to spend time in there.  Here is what it looked like before.

(Man, my old camera took crummy pictures.)  I didn't think I minded the yellow walls, but once they were repainted I realized how fantastico it could really look in there.


That bookshelf on the right used to be dark brown, which Michael painted white.  I also love that I have a bulletin board now, and a quilt design wall. (The design wall is a re-purposed baby blanket that a quiltie friend of mine made.)

 This is my happy place.  

Now, who wants to get crafty?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Lost and Found

I have moved a number of times in my life.  These events are usually precedeed by a feeling of panic, where I get rid of a number of items that I would keep on a regular day.  The pre-move garage sale is always a useful purge, but is often followed by regret for years to come. (Just ask my sister about the time we held a garage sale when our parents were moving from Michigan to Arkansas.  We were literally selling the pictures off the walls.  What were we thinking?)

Michael and I held a garage sale right before we moved from Saratoga, Wyoming to Fort Collins.  Granted, most of the items I haven't missed, but for some reason I've been pining for a shadow box that was made especially for me.

Let me back this story up a little bit.  Michael and I lived in Gillette, Wyoming for a year while he was on vicarage.  Gillette will always hold a special place in my heart because it was there that I learned to quilt.  The ladies of the church there welcomed me with a gusto and taught me all the foundations for quilting, many of the skills that I still use today.  When we left, Dianne gave me a shadowbox filled with all kinds of little quilty notions. 

I loved that she had put all those goodies in there just for me, and I had it up in my craft room in Saratoga.  But then when we moved, I just figured I wouldn't have a place for a shadow box, so I sold it to a lady who was going to give it to her daughter who was also sewer.

Oh how I regretted doing that.  I don't know why, but whenever I was sewing that shadow box would pop into my mind.  I remember that Dianne had told me I could take it apart if I wanted to.  Why didn't I do that?  Why?  Why didn't I keep the little scissors and the golden needle?  So I didn't have room for a shadow box.  I certainly had room for some wooden spools and a few buttons.  For some reason the scissors plagued me the most.  I use little thread snipping scissors all the time when I'm sewing, especially because I do a lot of chain piecing.  Whenever my usual pair had wandered away from my sewing machine I would think, "Why didn't I at least keep the scissors?"  This would sometimes be followed up by, "I bet that lady's daughter took the shadow box apart.  I bet she's using the scissors!  Why didn't I think of that!?"

Fast forward a few years.  I was in Saratoga a few weekends ago visiting my friends.  Carol and I decided to go downtown to a thrift store that wasn't even in existence when I lived there.  We had fun wandering around and then I stopped dead in my tracks.  There was my shadow box! The one I had been pining for! There is was, four years later!  I couldn't believe it!  And it was exactly how I remembered it, not a button missing.  There were my little scissors, calling to me.

I would only have to pay $14.50 to get it back. 

Oh my, I had a personal crisis right then and there.  I am super thrifty.  That is WAY too much money for me to spend on an item, especially one I had once owned for free.

I walked away, I came back.  I showed it to Carol, I put it back.  Then I wandered around the store holding it, trying to figure out if they would just let me take the scissors out, and they could still sell the rest.  A saleslady noticed me and said, "I think you want that."  "I do!" I said, and then I told her the WHOLE story.  I even pointed to the little note.  "That's me! I'm Karen!"

She talked to the owner of the store and they told me they would sell me the whole thing for $3.50.  Deal!  Hurray!!!! I almost cried.

I now have all the goodies in my new craft room, where they belong.  And I have a little bit more peace of mind.

P.S.  A few days after I had taken the above picture I was sewing and my usual thread snips had again wandered away.  "Now, where are my little scissors?" I said to myself, and I reached over and grabbed this pair and happily snipped away.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Landscaping -- Karen Style

I have mentioned before that I have a handy husband.  This spring he took some bricks and lined our flower beds in the backyard.  They look so much better than the haphazard dirt areas that they were before.  I was so excited envisioning all the lovely things that would grow in those flower beds. 

Here is the problem, though.  Neither my husband nor I have a green thumb.  We both love the outdoors and love nature, but we never really seem to cultivate that on our own. 

So sadly, our beautifully outlined flowerbeds stayed dirt areas all summer long (with the occasional weeds, of course). 

So I was thinking to myself that it would probably look better if we at least filled them in with woodchips.  I like woodchips, but unless you have a shredder and can make your own, they cost money (and I don't really like spending money). 

Then I had a brilliant idea.  Peach pits! We have been eating peaches like crazy lately and we don't usually compost the pits because they take so long to decompose.  So we were just throwing them away (which I hate doing).  I thought, what if I filled the flower beds with peach pits?  This is a good idea, but it would take forever to fill the space, so I expanded my brain-storming. 

Pine cones! Yes! They are everywhere.  They are all over our backyard and around our neighborhood.  So I started gathering them.  One of the neighbor kids saw me and actually joined in on the fun. I have filled one flower bed and I'm working on another.  I decided to throw the peach pits in with the mix because they are just so colorful and a fun addition.  The round balls are avocado pits. 

I am very happy with the way my flowerbeds are looking now.  I may not be a great gardener, but I am an excellent scavenger and collector.  Let's hear it for free landscaping.  Yay!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Scrappy Rambler: Round 2

Jody was the next gal to work on the Scrappy Rambler.  I met Jody way back when at a fabric swap at Mama Said Sew.  Actually, I think I ran into her at a number of fabric swaps that were held there.  She and I would always be the last two people digging through the huge mess of fabric, oohing and aahing over the tiniest little scraps.  She is my kindred spirit when it comes to using scraps and leftover pieces.  How fun, then, that she would get to add some scrappy love to the Scrappy Rambler.

Here is how she described her additions: "Two very scrappy and happy (very Karen) wonky log cabins (very me) with 'traditional' red centers - an idea inspired by Karen's red pj label centered in her starter block."
Photo by Jody Deschenes
Aren't they so fun?  I love all the bright and cheery fabric all mixed together.  I also love how she took a very traditional quilt block and made it fun and funky, but still kept up the tradition of the red centers. Those are two wonky log cabins of happiness right there.  I love scraps and I love this quilt!  Thanks Jody.  :-)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Bedroom Redo Redo

While I was in Michigan, my husband was a handy guy and painted our bedroom.  He is a super great husband because this is actually the second time that he's painted the same room.

When we first moved in the back wall was a really, really dark brown.  It looked nice with the previous owner's decor, but it really was not our style.

Mr. Paws was wishing we would paint in there.

So Michael did paint the room.  We both agreed on the color of blue, and then I left for the weekend while he painted. 

It was definitely an improvement from the brown, but it was just a little too blue.  You can't see it in the pictures but the ceiling was also painted blue.  It felt very closed in a lot of the time, especially later in the day.  And the color, as pretty as it is, didn't quite jive with the rest of the house.  It was supposed to feel serene and peaceful, and instead it felt like living in an aquarium.   

I was really happy with the new curtains, though.  So that was a step forward. 

So, Michael painted the bedroom again and I LOVE IT!  He did the walls the same color as our daughter's nursery and painted the back a wall a more slate grey blue.

It is so refreshing.  I'm so happy (finally) with the way it looks.  What a good husband to give it a second go.

Now I just need to hang some fun things on the wall and make a new quilt for the bed. Yay for the bedroom redo redo.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Scrappy Rambler: Round 1

Let me tell you a long-winded story.  It had been way, way too long since I'd gone to the dentist.  I was carrying around this huge amount of guilt for not getting into the dentist for regular cleanings like I knew I should be, but there were a number of reasons why it just wasn't happening.  When I finally made an appointment with a new dentist, I went in sheepishly, knowing it would not be a fun visit, but thankful that I was getting my oral health care back on track.

The hygienist was very nice.  I was expecting a lecture as I confessed my dental sins, but she was very gracious.  Then we started making small talk.  She asked where I worked and I said that I'd been working at The Sewing Circle before I had my daughter.  She said, "Oh, so you know Beth."  Yes, I knew Beth, she was one of my co-workers and my friend.  I asked how she knew Beth, expecting her to say that they went to church together or something like that.  She answered, "I know her from the Modern Quilt Guild."  Then I looked at her name tag.  It said "Penny" in nice shiny letters.

OH NO! No, no no no no no no! is what my brain immediately said.

I had heard of Penny a number times.  Why? Because she is super cool.  She has an amazing blog, is published in books and magazines, and has a super talent for creating paper piecing and other beautiful sewn items.  Whenever I'd heard anyone mention Penny it was always like, "Penny, she's the coolest."

So there I was, with my mouth hanging open and spit running down my face, embarrassed by my overdue dental visit and meeting super cool Penny for the first time.  I thought I would die of mortification right then and there.

Lucky for me, Penny is as nice as she is talented and she wasn't fazed by my awkwardness in the dental chair.  I texted Beth later that day and said, "I met your friend Penny today."  (I casually left out the part about my bazillion cavities.) Beth responded with, "We have a Modern Quilt Guild meeting this week, you should come."  So I did go to the meeting and the rest is history.

The good news is, I survived that trip to dentist (and the fillings that followed, blerg), and I joined the Modern Quilt Guild after that first meeting I attended.  I'm so grateful that all of this happened because joining the guild has been a huge blessing in my life.  It's been so fun to meet other crafty people and also to have a creative outlet in my little-kiddo filled life.

With all that being said, let's move on to the fun stuff: the roaming quilt bee.  Yay! As you recall, this is what my starter block looked like:

Penny was the first person to receive my quilt. Inspired by the tiny pajama pants on the Old Navy label, she paper pieced a giant pair of pajama pants (15"x25").

Photo by sewtakeahike
Aren't they fun!?  I love them! I wish I could wear them around the house they are so fun.  I especially love the colorful fabrics she choose.

So now this quilt block will become traveling pants (haha) and roam around with the Scrappy Rambler.

Stay tuned for the next installment. :-)

P.S.  You can check out Penny's blog here:

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Year of Baby

My daughter turned one year old this week.  People always say, "It goes by so fast," and it is crazy to think of how fast the time really flew.  What a blessing she has been! 

Brand New

1 Month

2 Months

3 Months

4 Months

5 Months
6 Months

7 Months

8 Months
9 Months

10 Months

11 Months

12 Months
 Happy Birthday, my sweet little girl.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Quilt Upgrade

When my nephew Henry was born, I made this quilt for him.  My sister, Emily, already had his nursery decorated in a super cute way, and this quilt fit in perfectly with her decor.

(You can read more about Henry's quilt here.)

When Emily found out she was having a girl, she wanted to girly up the nursery a bit.  She added touches of pink throughout the room. She also didn't want to retire Henry's quilt just yet.  After receiving a fun blanket from our Aunt Pam, Emily asked her if she would help update Henry's quilt so that it would fit in with the girly-fied nursery. 

Here is the fun block Aunt Pam made for my niece, Lilly.

My mom hand tacked it down so that it could be easily removed from Henry's quilt at a later time.  I'll probably work it into a quilt of her own someday.

Here it is in the nursery.  So fun!

I really believe that quilting is a community thing, so I love that Lilly has a quilt in her room made by Aunt Pam and me together. Hurray!   

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Emily's House

I have been at my sister Emily's house in Michigan for the past week.  There are so many things I love about being here, but one of my favorites is just being inside Emily's beautiful home.  She has it decorated in such a fun and artful way, with all kinds of personal touches.  I took a few pictures of some of my favorite things, and I asked her to tell the stories behind them.  Here are her thoughts.


Even as a kid, I've always loved setting up and displaying things in my rooms.  One of my first home decorating projects was maybe in 4th grade when I recovered an old jewelery box with leftover pieces of the wallpaper border from my room.  I didn't know why I felt compelled to do it, but I loved how it looked and how it made me feel about my room.  I think that pulling something together from the things that you already have has more appeal to me than just going out and buying something off the shelf.  Many of the things in my home have stories; they have sentimental value or I have somehow adapted them to fit how I want them to.

This is the wall in our playroom.  The framed letter photographs were a gift from my in-laws.  The large piece on the left was a project from my high school art class.  Our art teacher had a massive supply of metal tiles that were from a car dealership to show color samples.  We cut the tiles to make mosaics.  I decided to recreate a favorite Van Gogh painting, Cafe Terrace at Night.  (My love of Van Gogh is also seen here in the book, which was a birthday gift when I was a teenager.)  I spent almost half a semester working on that project.  From all my high school projects, this was my favorite.  While I can't imagine anyone would ever want to buy a car in mustard yellow or 70's gold, I loved having so many colors and shades to work with.

On the shelf are some metal stars that I bought when we lived in St. Louis.  You'll see them on the sides of the older buildings there and I love the charm of that.  The tile on the shelf came off a building in Sevilla, Spain, where I spent a semester in college.  In Sevilla, ceramic tiles are an architectural staple and whenever I was walking around the city and saw construction on a building, I'd check the dumpster.  I found several patterns of tiles in trash piles but this was my favorite.

Here's a wall from my living room.  The poster was from Sevilla and purchased for 3 Euros.  It was the first thing my husband and I had framed when we were engaged and even though it's a cheap reproduction poster, I've always valued how it looks in the frame. 

The books on the cabinet are a way of showing my love for literature.  The books are (top to bottom) Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, and some collected works of Shakespeare.  The little vintage box was recently rescued from my parents' basement.  It was an old lunch box that had been re-purposed into a purse and belonged to my great Grandma.  The wooden bowl was turned by my Father-in-law.  I love having a crafty family!

This is the landing by our stairwell.  I repainted the little wooden bird that came from a thrift store and also painted the pot of the small tree, which you can't really see because of the picture frame.  I'm always repainting things, and it blew my mind when I went to visit Karen that she didn't have any paints in her crafty arsenal.  A few months later I was looking online at a pattern to sew a small elephant and it needed a yarn tail.  I didn't have a single piece in the house.  I thought that would amuse Karen in the same way that not having paints was amusing to me, since Karen has bookshelves full of yarn. The flowers were all cut from my yard.  Our landscaping is not too spectacular but I love to make little arrangements from what we do grow.

For many years I had a lot of things in my house that I had repainted but no actual paintings.  This piece was also re-purposed.  When my husband and I moved to South Dakota for his one year internship, we left most of our things in storage and I decorated our small house with thrift store finds.  This was a brown-framed cardboard print of a prairie wagon with tall grasses and daisies surrounding it.  It was outdated and, as mentioned, cardboard.  While I loved it in a kitschy way in our Rapid City home, it was not a quality piece.  I saved it, though, and painting this poppy scene right on top.  I then repainted the frame green.  It made me a little sad to cover over the old picture but I felt it had served its time well and was ready for a new life.  I decided to make the painting after a friend asked me to paint her a picture of poppies for her new kitchen.  She asked for a yellow sky, and I conceded, although I thought blue would look better.  After I finished her piece I thought, Why not make my own poppies with a blue sky?  So there you go. 

When my son moved out of the nursery, I wanted to make his room feel just as purposeful as his nursery had been.  I saw a print of Eric Carle designed alphabet letters at Target, but it had pink and purple and wouldn't work for a boy.  I decided to make my own alphabet instead.  I'm glad I did because I loved how it turned out.  The frame was another South Dakota cast-off.  I had bought it on clearance at Target and it held a skiing poster in my husband's office.  I used mostly scrapbooking papers for this project.  I tried to make choices for my alphabet items that would not feel too babyish in a few years.  That's why L for leaf, M for mountain, and S for skis made the cut.  I also loved that B, C, and D could all be baseball related.  My husband and I were sucked into Cardinal nation when we lived in St. Louis.  As Michigan natives, we still have a fondness for the Detroit Tigers so I included the Detroit "D" as well.

On the wall opposite his ABC art, I cut out Henry's name in the same style.  My favorite part of this piece was the background paper, which I had painted using the metal caning of his vintage bedframe as a stencil.  It's subtle, but I know it's there, and I like that when he outgrows the bed or the room he can still have a piece of it.  Kind of like the pink bunny in Full House, but less sad, since no one died.

My daughter Lilly just turned one and I made this for her birthday present.  Lillian is a family name but I love that Lilly is also a flower name.  (I debated spelling her nickname Lily, so it would be just like the flower spelling, but decided to stick with the traditional form instead.)  I originally painted the piece with watercolor but didn't love it.  I then decided to outline it all with a magenta permanent marker.  That's when I really loved it.  I also added small hearts and doodles which made it feel more girly.  The frame was an ugly metallic-stickered frame from a garage sale but it had good bones.  First I painted it white.  Then I became a little Sharpie-happy and marked it up on all the raised portions.  I decided it was a little too much and painted over it.  The marker kept bleeding through and to me that worked perfectly.  I love how the painting and the frame work together now.


Do you see why I think it is so fun to stay at Emily's house?  I hope you enjoyed this fun little tour.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Scrappy Americana

Here is a little story about one of the coolest quilts that I ever made.  It began about eight years ago, when my dear friend Liz and I were both living in St. Louis, Missouri.  We were downtown on the Fourth of July, enjoying all of the fun festivities while we waited for night to descend and the super spectacular fireworks show over the Arch to begin. A lady walked by with a red, white, and blue quilt in her arms and Liz said, "I've always wanted a red, white, and blue quilt." "Really?" I said nonchalantly.  "Yes," said Liz.  I made a mental note right then and there.  Step one: I would learn to quilt.  Step 2: I would make Liz a red, white, and blue quilt.

That was one of those nudging little thoughts that stayed with me for years.  I finally did learn to quilt and the thought never left me, "If I have learned to quilt then I need to make Liz a red, white, and blue quilt, because that is Step 2." When Liz's husband, Rob, joined the army, it seemed even more important to make her a patriotic quilt.

Years later, while I was working at The Sewing Circle, I was helping a woman named Ellen quilt a 4th of July table cloth and it struck me that the time had come to begin Liz's quilt.  I mentioned to my co-worker Diana that I thought I would make a repeat of a quilt I'd already made, but would substitute red and blue for the colors.  It was a relatively simple block pattern.  She told me, "No Karen, you can't make the same quilt twice.  You have to do something new."  Ellen reinforced this by telling me that she would share her scraps with me from her tablecloth.  So that is where I began.  I pieced together Ellen's scraps and recreated a star similar to hers.

Ellen's tablecloth star.

Then I just kept sewing.  I would sew a little here and a little there.  I would often tell people about my project and they would donate red, white, and blue fabric.  It was so fun.  It truly felt like a community quilt.  It was also the first time that I really just sewed fabric together without having a pattern.  It was so exciting and creative.

It took me a couple of years, but I finally finished the quilt.  I literally finished it a night or two before I flew to Tennessee to visit Liz.  I remember as I hand tacked the binding, I was sewing over fabric that was covered in fireworks.  It felt like a celebration to be finally finishing a project that had been years in the making.

Giving Liz the quilt is one of my happiest memories.  We laughed, we cried, we hugged, and shared all kinds of quilty happiness.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone. May it be a celebration of the good things in life.