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.