Did you make these?

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As the holidays approach us, the little maker elves start whispering sweet nothings into my ambitious ears.  “Wouldn’t it be nice to sew all the kids costumes for Halloween, and then dress your Thanksgiving table with handmade linens, and then a handmade tree skirt and stockings, and, and and…”  This is a pretty common internal dialogue for me around this time of year.  In order to simplify my holiday crafting and really enjoy the people and pleasures of this magical season, I’m going to share one of my all time favorite, and SIMPLE, holiday projects.

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Fabric napkins add a subtle charm and warmth to any holiday table.  And they are always a crowd-pleaser.  “Did you make these?”  “Why yes I did!”  Truth be told, I use mine all year long, and they regularly inspire friends and family to learn the skill.  We have also stopped using paper napkins and paper towels in an effort to cut down on waste.  This is a great way to re-purpose fabric remnants, and my personal favorite, to cut into that lonely fat quarter bundle that’s been sitting on the shelf for years. Below I’ve shared two methods for making DIY fabric napkins.

The first is a single sided napkin using one piece of fabric.  You can make these with regular folded corners, or take a few extra minutes to make mitered corners.  After the first few washes, the wrinkles and crinkles hide the corner detail, so do what suits you.  I do a simple folded corner.

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The second method is a double-sided napkin.  This is a great way to mix and match complimentary fabrics and add more visual interest.  It also creates a thicker napkin overall as it’s two pieces of fabric.  You can also add fun stitching (quilting) to these if desired.

 

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I typically make my napkins between 16-18 inches square, but sometimes a rectangle or smaller napkin works just fine.  The standard restaurant napkin is around 18 inches square.  Maybe some smaller cocktail napkins would add some flare to your holiday bar!  Hmmm.  Might have to try that one.

See my favorite fabric napkin tutorials below.  Have fun sprucing up your holiday table, or make them your everyday go-to!

 

Double-sided napkins:

Sew Mod fabric napkins tutorial

Single layer fabric napkins:

With and without mitered corners:

Skip To My Lou fabric napkins tutorial

 

 

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Special Occasion

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Often times we save beautiful household items for special occasions.  Table linens, fine china, select vintage wines.  As families age and traditions change, these coveted items are frequently hidden away in cupboards and closets, sadly decaying in darkness.  Only when a family member becomes ill or passes, do we occasionally have the opportunity to bring them out again and recall the associated events.  Dinner parties, graduations, holiday celebrations.   I can still see my Grandmother raising her fierce eyebrows, motioning me to remove my elbows from the table, and gently dab the corners of my mouth instead of wiping roughly with her linen napkins.  I hear the clink of wine glasses during a toast.  I see the crumpled mound of linens after dessert, stained with hot pink lipstick and drippings from the leg of lamb.

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Special Occasion is an exercise in sustainable quilting, containing a majority of re-purposed textiles.  Materials include re-purposed textile samples, linen garments, antique table linens and cotton solids.  Techniques include improvisational machine piecing and machine quilting on a domestic sewing machine.  Every effort was made not to purchase any material for this quilt, but to use only what I had on hand.  I was almost successful, with the exception of wool batting which kept the drape of the quilt light and fluid.

Currently on exhibit until December 14: An Exploration in Sustainable Quilting présented by the Boulder Modern Quilt Guild.

Past Exhibit: The Second Annual Fort Collins Modern Quilt Guild Quilt Show.

Union

 

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Union, 2018

Gifted to an absolutely fabulous couple embarking on life together in marriage, Union was made entirely with them in mind. But I must say, they already have quite a head start in many respects. Olivia and Ashwin spent the bulk of the last two years over-landing through North, Central and South America in a 4-runner. If that many hours in a car together doesn’t test the patience and virtue of a life mate, I have no clue what does. Only a true gentleman (Ashwin) will dig that many holes during your acute case of travelers diarrhea. And Olivia kept them nourished and satiated with her stellar vegetarian cuisine. See @thehealthycamper for her goodies and @aatre for his photographic chronicling of their journey. Just wow!

I used mprovisational piecing of four oversized log cabin blocks composed mostly of repurposed men’s dress shirting compliments of Good Will.   A few select gray and white solids mixed with yellow and red pops of interest, this quilt grew spontaneously before my eyes.  Quilting was done with improvisational Baptist fans by the illustrious Carol Ricciardi It certainly didn’t hurt to have an absolutely fabulous location to run around like the crazy quilter I am, hanging it here, draping it there, and snapping a gazillion photos.  Because that’s what quilters do right?  Enjoy the images below.   Personally, I think Union looks best on them.

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Teach a friend to quilt

Meet Ana.

Ana and I met a few years ago when we first moved to Colorado.  A fellow mom, homeschooler, and from the Southwest, where we found many common themes in our upbringing and love of the desert.  We met for coffee with some other like minded women, nearly every Monday morning for the last two years.  This was a totally necessary and therapeutic time for us all, to bitch, philosophize, laugh or cry, and bounce the world off of one another.  Some moms brought their toddlers to meander around the busy cafe, while others happily settled in solo to take in the love and acceptance of the group.

Ana was always knitting, like mad knitting, like she’ll knit you under the table knitting.  Oh, and she has the best vocabulary of anyone I know.  But she wanted to quilt.   And of course I offered to help!  We took 3 afternoons to cover the basics: piecing the ohio star block, piecing the blocks together and adding a border.  And today she finished a pretty stellar top if I don’t say so myself!  Teaching a friend to quilt was fulfilling in a way I didn’t realize.  It brought me back to the magical mind of a beginner, and how remaining a beginner, and returning to the roots of this craft keep me grounded.

The crappy part of the story is Ana is moving, so the finality of today was sort of bittersweet.  I’ve agreed to Facetime tutorials for basting, quilting and binding,  but I’d sure rather sit over a cortado on a Monday and learn new vocabulary words.

I’ll miss you Ana.

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Mommy and Me

I finally washed these two after a week bundled up in my suitcase.  Aromas of the salty sea, wedding celebrations, essential oils and the sweat of dance-o-rama brought me back to a glorious day.

Her’s is a Simplicity 1121 Girls’ Pullover Dress.  And mine is a mash-up of the Lottie Dress by Christine Haynes with a tiered skirt modification.  We were determined to use the oodles of Nani Iro Birds Eye in pink and yellow found at Shugeicraft (probably just let out my super-secret, epic japanese double gauze connection!) a few months ago.  If you’re familiar with this delicious fabric, you’ll know it takes some courage to cut it up and make something fabulous!

The Simplicity 1121 was the first non-independent pattern maker pattern I’ve used.  It was not the easiest to follow as a novice garment maker, so I’d recommend it to an intermediate-level sewist.  However there are so many darling modifications that can be made to this pattern.  It’s sturdy and twirls just like they want it to!  I particularly like the elastic back bodice and adjustable sash straps, both which allow for growth to the next couple of sizes up.

Christine Haynes’ patterns are some of the most pleasurable to follow.  I’ve been hoarding the Lottie Dress pattern since it’s release a few years ago, waiting for the perfect moment to use it… and this was it!  The Lottie likewise has lots of tasteful modifications.  In this one I used the standard bodice, but made a tiered skirt and then applied the Lottie Pattern Hack 4.  Here I’m enjoying some pre-ceremony posing with my beautiful cousin.

The accessories that made my heart sing along with the Nani, were pink Gap sneakers (perfect for dancing all night!), and my go-to stack-able rose quarts bracelets from Love The Art in Beaver, UT (now closed, insert sad face).  The earrings were a quick therapeutic make at the Bead Shop Laguna Beach where I spent many hours as an adolescent beading and making jewelry.

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There’s another wedding coming up, so stay tuned for more celebratory updates!

The Making of Spring

Celestial Dress by Pattern Fantastique

Fen Pattern shirt by Fancy Tiger Crafts

My childhood dreams were few, and particular.  I wanted first and foremost to be a dancer, and with an unwavering specificity, a modern dancer.  Martha Graham had me at the big, flowing, layers-of-fabric gown in “Letter to the World.”  Dancing was one thing.  But dancing in a dress like that was other-worldly.

Secondly, I wanted to be a doctor.  I certainly longed to decode the human body.  How did it move and why?  Where do things go wrong?  What makes her hurt more than him?  How can genes be so cruel?  How will the family ride this wave of illness?  Partnership in navigating the human body was no small task, and I never looked back.

And then, to make my own clothes.  The sheer act of cutting and piecing together something that I could wear, my heart and sweat all over it, was simply spellbinding.

So I did all three.

This spring I committed to incorporating more makes by me, both in an effort to satisfy my childhood dreams, and to minimize the impact of a disposable industry.  A handmade wardrobe just feels right.

Winter restoration

Now February, a day after a buff blanket of snow fell on the Northern Colorado foothills, I remember birthdays past and that my celebration time has always been in winter.  I was a February baby, born in Chicago where surely my parents didn’t venture far those days and months after my birth.  The cold can be paralyzing, mood-defying and downright glum.  But it can also be bright and beautiful, calm and quiet, full of rest in preparation for the seasonal jump to spring.   It is a time of sport in the mountains, fireside chats, home almost certainly after dark, stew and wine, hot tea, quilts and unshaven legs.  Winter has become my friend and utterly necessary to restore and charge energies for the future.

“Pleasure” was my first quilt finish of 2018.  This work was particularly pleasurable after many months away from quilting.  A simple grid of squares in multiple shades of pink and green, machine and hand quilted.