Welcome, DuckaDilly + giveaway and sale!!!

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I am so excited to introduce to you my newest sponsor, DuckaDilly! I’ve gotten to know Lesley, the mastermind behind this beautiful Liberty shop through Instagram, and I’m just thrilled to be partnering up with her through Olivia Jane Handcrafted! She was kind enough to write up a little shop bio for me:

It all started thirty something years ago when my mom visited the Liberty of London flagship store while four months pregnant with me. It resulted in a Tana Lawn blouse with pearl buttons for her and an English name for me. After college I attended art school around the corner from the same Liberty store in London; during breaks, I would roam the magnificent Tudor revival building, admiring the fabrics and haberdashery. Continuing on with my love of all things Liberty, I now have a business devoted to Liberty Art Fabrics.    

Located in the charming Kerrytown district of Ann Arbor, Michigan, our studio is filled with bolts of Tana Lawn, chambray, fleece, and jersey. We specialize in seasonal, classic, and hard to find Tana Lawn prints. We also offer curated bundles of Fat Quarters, Stash Packs, and bias tape as well as a monthly Liberty subscription.

Color Stash Packs

I love that DuckaDilly carries such a huge range of Liberty. They even offer monthly subscriptions! Hello! How awesome would it be to have Liberty delivered to your door once a month?

I’ve made several purchases from this shop, and I thought I would show off my latest acquisitions. 20150416-DSC_0082 20150416-DSC_0083

Aren’t those dancers awesome?!Jelly Roll March 2015 Suzy Elizabeth Bundle

Lesley has been so awesome to offer up a $50 gift card to DuckaDilly to one lucky reader! All you have to do is leave me a comment telling me what you would use the card to purchase. You may enter once; multiple comments will be deleted. I’ll draw a winner on Monday.

In addition, she is offering a coupon this weekend only for 10% off almost anything in her shop. Use code Spring2015 at checkout April 24-26 to get your discount. This does exclude gift cards and subscriptions. You also get free shipping on all domestic orders over $75. How great is that? I hate paying for shipping so I will always spend at least the threshold amount to avoid the shipping.

Rainbow Scrap Pack

Head on over to DuckaDilly and check out the huge selection of Liberty. I bet you’ll get lost in all the goodness!! Remember to use the coupon!

Stay tuned for a project series I’ll be doing this summer in coordination with my sponsors. I think you’re going to love it!

-Meredith

Handmade by Humans

This post has taken a good bit longer for me to write than I anticipated, but its an important one. I hope that at the very least it will cause you to pause and think. Beyond that, I hope you can leave here inspired and more driven. I’m going to be using myself as an example simply because I can only speak for myself here.

I want to open up a discussion here about what drives us to make, to create, to do whatever it is we do. Why do you go about things the way you do? What does your work, be it quilting, cooking, gardening, writing, or otherwise, say about you? 20150301-DSC_0013

Let’s touch on that first point. What drives you to do what you do? Is it money? Is it a passion for your craft or job? How about your children; do they inspire you to make?

I was recently told in a derogatory way that I was obviously passionate about something I had made. This something is one that I had poured my heart and my time into, working and and reworking until I felt I could put my name on it and be proud of what I had accomplished. So yes, I did and still do feel passionately about that thing.20150127-DSC_0010

I feel that I should love what I’m doing because of why I’m doing it. I’ve wanted to sew since I was a little girl. Walking into my grandmother’s house was like walking into a treasure trove of handmade and antique goods, each with their own story. I so admired my grandmother’s collection of goods, many of which came from her own hands. I vividly remember daydreaming about the days my she would teach me to sew. I imagined us quilting stitches for hours on end engaged in conversation. As a child, I wanted to soak in any wisdom she could share with me on sewing and on life. It was a way for us to come together and for her to pass on all she knew. Sadly, she was taken ill and died before she could ever teach me any of these things. 10958271_390114184495539_1852497616_n

While she couldn’t sit down and impart all of her handmade wisdom, I most certainly inherited her knack for putting a handmade personal touch on just about anything. Fast forward to 2009 when I was pregnant with Layla. I had the urge to sew some goodies for my not-yet-born baby, and one of my best friends gave me the push I needed to dive into the world of sewing. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, but I bought some super cheap, super ugly clearance fabric from Walmart, grabbed some scissors to cut some squares, and I started sewing. And boy did that shoddily sewn, ugly chicken fabric work some wonders for me. It wasn’t long before I was discovering the greats like Amy Butler and Anna Maria Horner. I was so drawn to their incredibly designs and colors I couldn’t stop.  IMG_9700

This brings me to the second point: What does your work say about you? Did you know that in crafting (or working, or being a mom, or whatever you are doing), you are building up your legacy? So invest in it! Leave behind a good one! 20141123-DSC_0302

This is the very point that drives me to learn all that I can, and I have so much I want to learn! When I began sewing, I wanted to sharpen my skill with every project. I never wanted someone to look at my work and assume it was homemade. Now, if we took a walk down memory lane, much of it would look very homemade, but the point is, I sought to better myself. My grandmother left behind such a beautiful legacy for me. She is so much a part of who I am. I love that bits of her were injected throughout her home in the form of quilts, crocheted blankets, upholstery, and even paintings. In her lifetime her home, her domain, was a reflection of her and the care she put into her work. In the time after her passing, her children and grandchildren and others are treasuring those tangible bits of herself left behind.

I commented on a recent post about quilts and other handmade goods being able to tell stories of times gone by if they could only speak to us. Its incredible for me to ponder the cold nights those quilts may have seen my mother and her brothers through. Or those outfits made for special days…. What was going on in the world when she painted that beautiful picture of the old schoolhouse where my grandpa attended? The history, their stories are so incredible to think of, even if they are only imaginings of mine. IMG_465220150201-DSC_0045

I want to leave that kind of legacy for my children. Do you? Do you know your daughter will hang on to that quilt you made for her? That may someday warm your great granddaughter, or perhaps hang in a place of importance as a tribute to you. What stories will your stitches tell? IMG_9699

Does your work reflect that of a careful, thoughtful attitude? This is something I think of often. Its a point so connected to the legacy aspect for me, but its also very practically related to finances. The plain fact is, good quality fabric is expensive. The other components used to make quilts, bags, clothing, and other items are also expensive. So it blows my mind when one can rush through and make something truly temporary. Its really all temporary because nothing in this world will last forever, but I’m talking short term here.

Are you making things that will last? Are you making things that justify the cost of the materials and the time you put into your handmade goods? Are you doing yourself and/or your family a disservice by doing less than your best on that fabric you might have gone over budget on? And please remember, I’m not criticizing you. I want you to really evaluate what you are doing so that you can be a better crafter! We are all at different places, and not one of us started out doing a great job. As a beginner, I used the crap fabric because I was a novice. I knew nothing. In addition, we were making less than $10k yearly and I didn’t have money for good fabric. I hardly had money for bad fabric, so if I couldn’t make the bad stuff good, I certainly wasn’t ready to move up to the good stuff. 20141019-DSC_0066

I found great passion in sewing. That tiny little spark that began as a child, and slowly lit into adulthood is now a raging fire. I so love that I have this great privilege of working with beautiful fabrics and making useful items. For me personally, so much of my felt responsibility is in making not only lasting items, but utilitarian items. If its not going to be used, I don’t see a point in making it. Again, it costs too much in materials and time for me to make something that won’t get good use.IMG_9698

I also want to touch on hobby vs livelihood crafting. There’s a massive difference here. While I do believe the first two points apply to both, I think that necessity separates the two. Both are wonderful reasons for sewing, and where there is seemingly limitless freedom to the hobbyist, there much for pressure for the career sewist. This is something I’m working through right now as my hobby is morphing into a livelihood. I’m not even close to being at that point to be frank, but that is the goal. And its no joke. Its a constant, never ending, work-my-butt-off venture. BUT ITS FUN! And its so incredibly rewarding. 20141227-DSC_0012 20150109-DSC_0005 20150201-DSC_0142

Right now my husband’s workload is a fraction of what is was a year ago and of what it needs to be for us to live on one income. I’ve been talking for a couple of years about putting out some patterns that I’ve had in the works and being able to make this blog a useful source of information for crafters and a way for me to make money off of the work I’m putting into it. If you blog, you know its not just a matter of sitting down and rambling on. I put an average of 10 hours into every single post that goes up here, from the planning, to the crafting, to having it photographed, to writing the post. Its a lot of work. The necessity of needing income has lit a fire under my rear to get over my self-doubt and put my work out there. Its not been an easy thing, but I’m glad I had the push of necessity to get me through it. 20140817-DSC_0081 20140908-DSC_0003

This past fall I released my first quilt pattern. I can’t tell you how incredible it has been to be able to put something out there and for people to purchase and make the pattern! Its terribly fulfilling. This spring at quilt market I’ll be releasing two patterns with Alison Glass. While I’m there, I plan to jump right out of my comfort zone and make some great connections and meet some incredibly talented people in this amazing industry. The next step up is always a little nerve-wracking, but its all about pushing your limits and expanding your horizon, and continuing to be the very best you can be.

All of that is really to say this: What you do is a reflection of who you are. Do you put time and care into your work, or are you only putting in a halfway effort? The results will reveal that. Are you doing what you love- what gives you fulfillment? Sometimes we think the fun stuff has to wait until the end of our working years when we have some money to throw away. Let me encourage you to take a chance now if you truly have passion and skill to drive you. Certainly what works for one will not work for another. Obviously family situations will dictate what your limitation are, but I encourage you to not only do something that you love, but to use the skills you have been given to the very best of your abilities. We are not on this earth for long. Don’t take that time for granted. Do your best, and you will not regret it. Learn new things, and try something you think you can’t do. You may just surprise yourself and find that spark that will lead to a flame. 20140729-DSC_0009 20140124-DSC_0004

Next week I want to talk to you about sourcing fabric and other items within your means. How on earth does someone on a tight budget afford the good stuff? Hopefully I can give you some good tips!

Now I want to hear from you. Where does your passion come from? What inspires you to create? Let’s talk about this!

-Meredith

Babies bring out the best

I was recently asked to make a unisex quilt for a not-yet-born baby. I was excited by the challenge to go gender neutral yet stay within my vibrant style. I don’t think the person who commissioned the quilt was concerned with the style as much as they were with gender neutrality, but it was important to me. 20150416-DSC_0064

So here we are. I dug deep into my sacred Little Folks stash to piece together this voile top. Babies do need buttery soft quilts! 20150416-DSC_0066 20150416-DSC_0068 20150416-DSC_0076

I adore this fabric. It definitely won’t be open to commission in the future, but it did remind me I need to make some family quilts with these gorgeous, bold prints. 20150416-DSC_0069

The back of the quilt is a print from Juliana Horner, the daughter of the great Anna Maria who designed all the rest of the fabrics. I’m not an orange person. I’ve never owned an orange garment since I have red hair, and I’m just generally not drawn to the color. But man does it do all the right things here. It makes me want ALL of this fabric. 20150416-DSC_0071 20150416-DSC_0073

I did hand quilt this one, as you can see. It seemed only right. That and I’ve been sewing on Layla’s Hello Kitty machine for a couple of months now and there’s no way in the world I’m going to quilt anything on that machine.

The binding is a favorite of mine- its a voile print from Anna’s Innocent Crush collection. I’m trying to track down more of it for this very purpose, so if you know where I can find it, let me know! 20150416-DSC_0077

I so loved putting together this quilt. I hope the little baby whom it was made for will cherish it for years to come. Quilts are really special in that way, don’t you think? They become so connected to our lives. My, what stories quilts would tell if they could talk!

Have a beautiful weekend!

-Meredith

 

Some custom work with leather

Last week I was going through my bits of leather and decided they needed to be used. I had several small cuts, and offered to make some custom bags via Instagram. I had a few takers, and today I want to show you two of the bags I was able to make.

First, I got to use this absolutely gorgeous Tiffany blue leather in combination with some Cotton + Steel.20150413-DSC_0001

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I love that both of the women here chose flat bottom pouches. Its such a great bag, and so perfect for makup, knitting supplies, or anything else you can think of. I’ll definitely offer more in this size when I make up my next batch of Liberty bags.

Next up, I got to dig into my AMH stash to pair with a gorgeous sueded cowhide.

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Field Study is her favorite Anna Maria Horner collection, so I started there, and then threw in a few prints from Garden Party and Good Folks that I felt coordinated well with the rest of the prints. 20150413-DSC_0004

I lined this one with a print from Innocent Crush.20150413-DSC_0008

These are off to their new owners today. If you would like a custom bag, you can contact me via email or send me a message on Etsy.

Have a beautiful Tuesday!

-Meredith

Practice Makes Perfect

If you are active on Instagram, chances are you’ve witnessed the mini quilt swap craze that’s going on. “Craze” is really putting the whole thing lightly. I managed to avoid it for a while, but I did carefully choose one swap, and was also invited to a very small private swap with some of the most talented people in the crafting community. So I’m part of two now.

The private swap has caused a lot of consternation on my part. I need this quilt to be the picture of perfection. Knowing I’m involved in a group of such talented ladies has driven me to think outside the box to make something amazing. I don’t know that I’ll hit the mark, but I’m doing everything I can to get it right. 20150408-DSC_0006

I wanted the quilt to have a focal point, and this star from “Little Quilts” fit the bill perfectly. I was able to pull a large variety of bold and bright prints from my Anna Maria Horner stash which I know my partner will love. 20150408-DSC_0002

My Y seams need some practice, so this version was my test run. You can see I made it into a pillow. While the star turned out great, the background didn’t lay as crisp and flat as I would like. After pressing and basting, I could see it wouldn’t take much work to fix it. It only took one line of quilting to flatten her out. 20150408-DSC_0009

I filled in the background with a host of white stitches to give the pillow some texture, but also to help the star really pop.

The back of the pillow is a favorite print from AMH’s home decor collection, Drawing Room. I used a zippered closure, which is my favorite method for finishing pillows. 20150408-DSC_0010

I could pretend I’m put out from having to practice for this quilt. But I’m not one bit. In fact, I couldn’t be more thrilled to have an awesome new throw pillow with so many incredible prints. It really was a happy little accident. :)

-Meredith

Caravan Tote : Liberty + Chambray

By now you know that I like to put Liberty into anything that can be Liberty-d. I just do not tire of this amazing fabric and the hundreds of intricate yet delicate designs. This time, I gave the Caravan Tote the Liberty treatment. Of course I paired it with some chambray (from Andover) because Liberty + chambray make the most beautiful couple.20150405-DSC_0078

This gorgeous Liberty print, Glencot House (which was purchased from Duckadilly), features a landscape scene full of lush greenery and florals. I wouldn’t call it a traditional Liberty print, just because it features a scene rather that a repeated grouping of florals. It is a beauty, though, isn’t it? It makes me want to go to Europe right this moment, and throw away my phone and computer, and just sew and garden for the rest of my days. A girl can dream….20150405-DSC_0067

I just adore this bag. Anna Graham really outdid herself with this one. Its a terribly useful tote, and I know this one will get a lot of use.

My snap setting skills improved somewhat this go round. I’m glad of that!20150405-DSC_0063

The pocket lining is a gorgeous dot from Dear Stella.20150405-DSC_0071

The grey solid is from Free Spirit, and the green is an RJR cotton supreme solid (coordinates with Cotton and Steel).20150405-DSC_0075

This palette is quite toned down from my normal bold, saturated look. But I do love it. I love the serenity of both the colors and that gorgeous Liberty print. That’s exactly what I was hoping to “feel” with this bag, and I think its there.

Thanks for stopping by!

-Meredith

The Easter Things

Did you have a good Easter? We had a great time. Layla loves hunting for eggs and munching on sweets (though there’s some confusion about the bunny pooping out eggs and trick-or-treating which she has never actually done….) And Wallace just enjoys watching whatever Layla is doing and tries to keep up with her. 20150405-DSC_0021

We started off our Easter preparation with some egg dying which was so much fun. I wish we would have had more than a dozen eggs! I’m thinking of just dying some regular raw eggs for the fun of it. We got fancy schmancy and mixed colors. 20150402-DSC_0015 20150402-DSC_0021 20150402-DSC_0002

I also worked on an Easter basket with Layla. This was my most favorite thing! I gave Layla free reign over all of my Cotton and Steel. She was able to pick as few or as many prints as she wanted, and we would turn them into an Easter basket. She compared fabrics and added just what she loved, and came up with her perfect mix. She wanted some patchwork on the inside, and one print on the inside. 20150402-DSC_0036 20150402-DSC_0008

I was so interested in her process for choosing fabrics. I admired that she just dove in and chose whatever struck her fancy. She just adores that kelly green floral from the Cookie Book collection, but I was honestly surprised that the print she had to have in all three colorways was that tiny dot fabric from the same line. She just swooned over that simple print. Its so opposite of my taste which is very bold with a huge appreciation for detail. It really goes along with the way she draws and paints too. She can stick a few colors or lines on a page and see a whole story. I love that she has her own style. 20150402-DSC_0018 20150402-DSC_0023

Onto the eggs. We kept them quite simple, and in an effort to include Wallace we didn’t hide them very well. It was such fun to see Layla explain to Wallace how to pick up and put the eggs in the basket. He didn’t get it at all. He was perfectly content to try to bit right into them or throw them across the lawn. I might add that he’s sticking to his personality as well. The boy would be perfectly content if a ball was the only toy he ever had, so chucking the eggs was just right for him. 20150405-DSC_0047 20150405-DSC_0045 20150405-DSC_003920150405-DSC_0033

Kids are just the best. These two leave me with a level of exhaustion I’ve never known before. They are busy from the time they wake up until they close their eyes at night. They’re loud, and make me feel like I’m a tad crazy a lot of the time. But they are so special to me. Among so many other things, they are the reason I love to create. I just adore making things for them, and with Layla, helping her to hone her own style and learn to make things herself. I could really go on with this, but I’m saving a heavier crafty conversation for later in the week. Its one I hope will cause you to think, and one that I hope will inspire and light a fire in you. Please stay tuned for that, because I’m hoping to open up a great dialogue for us. Until then, stay tuned for a brand new Caravan Tote I made last week!

-Meredith

Opposite Attract Quilt : Cotton + Steel

I finally get to show you the finished Cotton + Steel Opposites Attract quilt top!

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This one is twin sized and will most likely be finding a home on Layla’s bed. I’m no even going to attempt to quilt it. I want it done soon, so I’ll likely send it out to the uber talented Gina Pina, who just quilted one of my quilts for Market that I’m dying to show you!

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I love the bold colors in this version. I was going for a high contrast look with the main fabrics and background, and while if I’m honest I’ll say its not exactly what I envisioned, I sure do love it. And I know I’ll love it even more once its finished. Now I need to figure out which Cotton + Steel fabric will make the best backing…. How on earth am I going to do that?!

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I’m sorry its so wrinkly! My pressing did’t survive the car ride, obviously.

Layla loves it. It spent the night on her bed already, and I think she quite likes the idea of having a quilt on her big girl bed. We moved her into a twin bed last year, and I’m just now getting around to making a quilt big enough. What kind of quilty mom am I, anyway?

If you’d like to make your own Opposites Attract Quilt, you can find it in my shop. You can also see other versions here, here, and here.

What have you been up to? Has Spring’s arrival got you itching to freshen up your house with bright colors?

-Meredith

HST Redux : the coaster tutorial

I’m back today with a tutorial for using up those half square triangle (HST) pieces you are bound to be left with at some point as a quilter. Don’t fret! They are far from useless. Today I’m going to prove it to you with a tutorial for making one of my all time favorite household items- coasters.20150324-DSC_0020

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Several Christmases ago, I showed you how to make some tree themed coasters, but this one will be perfect year round, and so great for busting through those triangle scraps! I’m using leftovers from a recent Opposites Attract Quilt I made using Cotton + Steel Basics.

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So here’s what you will need: triangle scraps, 4.5″ backing fabric for as many as you are making, and 4.5″ batting squares (again, for however many coasters you plan to make). You’ll also need a rotary cutter and mat, an iron, a sewing machine, a turning tool (perhaps  dull pencil or a knitting needle) and coordinating thread (I’m using Aurifil 50wt). You will probably be able to make one coaster in ten minutes, maybe less.

There are a million and two ways to arrange HSTs. You can use larger pieces, or you can cut them down and come up with a more complex arrangement. I went with hourglass blocks for mine because its quick and simple and looks great.20150324-DSC_0003

Assuming you are going with an hourglass shape, sew sides together so that the section in the middle is in line. (The 90º corner of the triangle will most likely be square, so this shouldn’t be difficult to do. If its not, consider squaring off that part before you begin.)20150324-DSC_0004

Press seams toward the colored portion, and then sew middle seam together. The middle seam should “lock” in place if you pressed to one side on the first step. Press the middle seam open.20150324-DSC_0006

Trim down to 4.5″ square using the 45º angles on your ruler as a guide.20150324-DSC_0008

Next, layer your pieces as follows: backing fabric right side up, HST block right side down, batting. 20150324-DSC_0009

You may want to use your walking foot for this part, or you can just sew with your batting on top. Begin toward the bottom of one side, and using a backstitch and 1/4″ seam allowance, sew around your square, pivoting at the corners. Stop and backstitch 1.5-2″ before you reach your starting point so you have room to turn your coaster. 20150324-DSC_0010

Trim the corners, but do not cut into your stitching. 20150324-DSC_0012

Turn coaster right side out using your turning tool to gently poke out the corners. Press coaster. 20150324-DSC_0013

Using an edgestitching foot, sew all around your coaster. This will close up the opening, and give your coaster a finished appearance. Press again, then you are finished! 20150324-DSC_0014 20150324-DSC_0015

I love making these coasters as gifts because you can do anything you want with the tops, and they are so useful! Really, they are better than any coaster I’ve ever purchased, AND they are machine washable.

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Go raid your scrap drawer and have fun! I want to see what you’re making, so post pictures to my Flickr page or use #OJHcoasters on Instagram.

-Meredith

Finding inspiration for a new beginning

I was recently asked to be a part of the Traveling Threads Bee which is a small group of women who are mailing out blocks each month on a circuit. At the end of the year, the blocks and the additions made by the group will circle their way back to the original owners who will finish up the quilts. I liked the idea, but man, I had the worst time finding inspiration for this one. No one else seemed to have an issue. I’m such a control freak; I normally plan out every single bit of a quilt before I even whip out my rotary cutter, so this was really a few steps outside of my comfort zone. I decided that regardless of the theme I began with, I ought to stick with a single collection of fabric so that even with a mish mash of styles, at least the fabric would coordinate. The obvious choice was just to go with Cotton and Steel because their entire range of fabrics coordinates perfectly, and there are so many to choose from. I quickly stashed a bunch of fat quarters to use and send in my package. That was the easy part.

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The real difficultly for me was coming up with a first block. This single block would determine the whole tone of the quilt. Did I want to start with a big star? Some patchwork squares? I was just clueless. That is, until I pulled out a piece of Melody Miller’s Mustang fabric. Gosh, that print is genius and it makes such a bold statement. I knew I had to recreate it for my quilt. I’m not into paper piecing a gazillion pieces to make a picture, so I asked my sister to blow me up a picture of the horse so I could make a template and applique my horse. I used the template to cut out my pieces which I fused together with some Wonder Under. I fused the whole horse to my favorite print from Melody’s new Playful collection. Then I went back and stitched it down using coordinating pink thread and clear polyester thread.

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It took a while for inspiration to find me, but I’m just tickled with the result. I really could not be happier, and I’m finally excited to send this fabric off on its journey around the country. I can’t wait to see what the other ladies decide to add.

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I’m going to be making another Mustang inspired quilt, and I’ll be happy to post a tutorial on my process if you would like a bit more clarity. Leave me a comment so I know if there is interest.

-Meredith