Max, on the quilt
So I'm super excited that an essay of mine just went live on AOL's ParentDish! I wrote about how the quilt I made inspired my toddler Max to (finally) start talking. Because of a little copyright thing called exclusivity, I can't reproduce the essay here, but you can read it here at ParentDish!

I can give you the gist though! In a nutshell, it's like this: Max seemed behind (in my very un-objective view) on his language development, and I was obsessing over getting him to just flippin' talk already. Then, unrelated, I made a big patchwork quilt for my bed. And suddenly Max had something to talk about and bam, his language development kicked in. Okay, I say it better than that in the essay, I promise. I have to give props to my friend, Kristine,  for suggesting that I write this essay. I posted about the quilt to my little writer's group, and she was like, um, duh, you're a writer and you need to write about this (of course, she said it much nicer than that).

I really do love this quilt. I made it fairly large, enough to cover our queen bed, plus have extra for overhang. I think the finished dimensions are something like 96 by 104. I just know it was a whole lot of fabric to deal with. But the assembly was easy: I just cut out bunches of 9" squares and patch-worked them all together. I would have loved to have sent it out for professional quilting, but the straight-stitch machine quilting will do. I backed it with a pretty seersucker.

The definition of random patchwork!
My first embroidery project, stem patterns from Sublime Stitching
I thought I didn’t like handwork. I’ve always dreaded hand-basting and hand-hemming when I sew. I get irritated when I have to slip-stitch the opening of a quilt together after I turn it.

But something about embroidery always seemed appealing to me. Truthfully, I think it’s all the pretty colors on the DMC floss wall. But it must be complicated, I told myself for years, and involve all kinds of intricate techniques and stitches and things that would stress me out.

 Then I picked up a copy of Sublime Stitching, by Jenny Hart in the bookstore one night about a year ago, and the wooing began in earnest! I put it on my wish list for my birthday a few weeks later, and my husband got it for me. It sat on my bookshelf untouched, but every week, I’d think, this will be the week I’m going to learn to embroider!

 One Sunday afternoon about two months ago, Max was napping, my husband was playing his guitar, and I found myself with a blissful 90-minute stretch with nothing to do (this never happens). I wasn’t really in the mood to sew, so I pulled out Sublime Stitching again, and within a half-hour, I was embroidering! I transferred her sampler/learn-to-embroider page onto some muslin (the whole idea of transferring gave me the shivers at first, but it is SO easy), and took my first stitches using some floss and an old hoop I found in the bottom of my sewing basket. Within minutes, I decided I loved it!

The next day (after a trip to the craft store for supplies) I started my first real project, some flower stems for a pillow (with sewn yo-yos for the flowers). For the next few nights, I sat down after the baby was in bed and the work was done, propped up my feet, watched something mindless on TV and embroidered away. It was so relaxing! I’ve heard Alicia Paulson talk on Craft Sanity  about how embroidering is what got her through recovering from a very bad car accident and many surgeries to her foot. I can completely understand that now. The repetitive motion of the needle back and forth through the fabric and the act of holding the floss and watching the pattern form has a way of numbing both the pain response and the stress response. When I’m embroidering, I feel so at peace (and trust me, I’m not a person who uses often phrases like “I feel so at peace”).

Ooh la la, cupcakes! Another Sublime Stitching transfer
A lovely cake plate. Do you sense a theme?
  Of course, my stitches are far from perfect! I’ve got the split spit, the satin stitch, and the French knot pretty well established, but I haven’t ventured much further. It’s still a learning curve, though I was excited to be able to embroider several Cliffords for a Clifford quilt that I made for Max for his first big boy bed (more on that later). I look forward to checking out the other Sublime Stitching embroidery books; Alicia Paulson also has a new book coming out this month, and I definitely have my eye on that. Right now, I’m trying to figure out what to do with these adorable cupcakes and cake plates I just finished the other day. As the last few (very uncomfortable) weeks of pregnancy descend on me, I can’t think a better way to spend my time!
The lovely Mariposa Dress

  I’ve already blogged over at the site of my colleague, Kelly Watson, about how Anna Maria Horner’s Amazon video for Handmade Beginnings totally sucked me in (and led me to create my own video)! On the video, Horner features the Mariposa Dress (and she is wearing it in the book). I knew at first glance that I absolutely HAD to make it. After all, since I was already pregnant, the timing was perfect!  

I was intimidated by the pattern sheets at first, because there are multiple pattern pieces printed over top of each other. But it’s all color-coded, so actually, it was very easy to trace and keep track of. I make all of my pattern pieces out of Pellon Tru Grid because it’s easy to see through and work with. I decided to make the dress (not the tunic) and to follow the maternity directions (obviously). There is also an option to just make it an empire waist, without the extra space for a belly (in which case it still serves as a great nursing dress). The sizes are somewhat limited: it’s either small/medium or medium/large. (I chose medium/large, and when not pregnant, I wear either a size 8 or 10.)

  My observations:
  • I found the directions very clear. The only thing I had to take a second look at were the directions for shaping and cutting the rectangles for the bottom of the dress. You fold them to shape them (so you can shape both sides at once), but then you have to unfold them to cut, and then cut the whole rectangle on the fold. It seems obvious now, but at first I thought you were supposed to leave them folded in half to cut (something about the wording of how to place it on the fold confused me for a minute, but of course, it wouldn’t make sense to leave them folded to cut).
  • The wrap ties—which I adore from a design perspective—are nonetheless a pain in the butt to work with, especially because they are constantly in the way. But such is the price for loveliness! Just take your time with them.
  • I decided to make mine sleeveless (since it’s 10,000 degrees outside this summer) and I brought the arm holes in slightly. This added a bit of bulk at the shoulder seam, which I didn’t think through; I wish that I would have adjusted the spacing of the box pleats. But it’s not really a problem.
  • I just finished the armhole edges with pre-made bias tape, since I wasn’t in the mood to make my own.
  • It’s a bit short, so I just took the scantest of hems. If you’re tall (I’m 5’ 5-1/2”), you probably want to add more length (she does give you finished dimensions, so you can measure ahead of time and figure out your length).
Wearing the dress at CHA
There is definitely room for a pregnant belly in this dress! I’m 35 weeks (and in no way small), and I wore it this past weekend at CHA. I actually got lots of compliments on it! I hope that I can still wear it after I have the baby; I’m worried it will be too long in the front, but I love this dress so much, I don’t want to give it up! The modesty panel (which comes together very easy) makes it ideal for nursing, so I definitely plan to make the tunic version after the baby comes.

CHA Supershow entrance
This past weekend, I was at the Craft & Hobby Association Supershow (a retail show of all-things-craft). My publisher had asked a while back if I wanted to come and do some make-and-takes and meet-and-greets (and sign whatever copies of Sew Retro sold). It seemed like a great opportunity, but since I’m ridiculously pregnant (and Chicago is about a six-hour drive from Cincinnati), I asked my sister, Laura, to come with me. Not that I thought I'd go into labor or anything, but I figured I could use the help (and company).
My sister, Laura, and me, at the Craftside booth
  It was great to meet some of the other authors, like Stefanie Girard (Sweater Surgery), Jennifer Worick (Simple Gifts: 50 Little Luxuries to Craft, Sew, Cook, & Knit) and Geri Greenman (The Complete Photo Guide to Creative Painting).

Also, it was my first time running a make-and-take. It was so exciting to see such enthusiastic people cutting out the Fabric Flower Pin! Laura kept reminding me how un-crafty she was, but she totally embraced the project and was all about making them. In fact, I had originally just designed the flower to be two layers, cut at the same size, of the same fabric. And then she was like, um, let’s make two different layers and cut the top one smaller. Brilliant! I love this version of the flower, and I just added it as a bonus project here. Then, Laura was like, hey, I think I’ll make one with THREE layers! One of the women who sat down to do the make-and-take fell in love with Laura’s 3-layered flower. So Laura made a deal with the woman: buy my sister’s book, and I’ll give you the flower. And you know what? The woman bought my book—and Laura gave her the flower! In fact, all weekend long, Laura was talking up my book to any random stranger she came across (and then taking pictures of me signing each book that sold). Perhaps I should hire her as my publicist! Seriously though, I couldn’t have gotten through the weekend without her. All in all, it was a successful first CHA.
Doing make-and-takes