O Thank Cuteness

The Staff of Generation Q Magazine started something a couple of years back, called O Thank Cuteness (this year’s version here) and it prompted me to write about my favorite guy on my art/travel blog (sadly neglected since the inception of Hunter’s Design Studio… being an entrepreneur is a delightfully busy gig!)

So here it is… out of the archives and into today’s post. And every bit as true as when I wrote it!

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My friend Jake, who spearheads Generation Q Magazine, got a blog topic going this week – “Oh, Thank Cuteness!” She wrote about her daughter, and invited the readers to chime in with their versions. She got me to thinking about my son Steve, known to many in my life as The Boy (the capitalization is honorific here) and so here goes…

Steve’s personality was evident in utero. Every time we got an ultrasound wand near him he turned his back playfully and kept us guessing as to his gender. We could tickle his feet through my tummy, and in return he would torment me with bump-heaving hiccups. He made us wait to meet him, finally consenting to arrive the better part of a month late. The reward in this is that he smiled early.

From the get-go, he had a sense of humor. Mischief sparkled in his eyes often, and still does. He’s relentlessly funny, not in that doesn’t-know-when-to-quit annoying way, but in a lightness of being that is just present, even when he’s not fully awake. It’s a lightness that carries me often, as I tend to take it all a bit too seriously.

At two years old, Steve grabbed the hose while I was washing the car and sprayed me down, squealing. It was the first salvo in water wars that continue between us even today. As a youngster, he would ask the most hair-curling questions, but could find the humor in the then-ickyness of the answers. As a sleepy teen, he took to tapping my head and mumbling “snooze” when I tried to wake him up. I once painted his toenails while he was napping, and he laughed and wore it for the day before asking for the remover.

Steve understands the concept of having fun. He encouraged me to give up the 2-day ritual of decorating for Christmas and instead spend it in pajamas eating leftover Chinese food, while watching a full season of something geeky with him. In fact, this is how we spent our last Thanksgiving together, getting properly dressed only long enough to go to the movies in the afternoon. I reflect back on that day and remember it as one of my faves.

It would be easy to see all this fun and humor and imagine that Steve is just a party guy. Far from the truth. He thinks deeply about lots of things, and continues to ask the tough questions. The first election he voted in was the one that put Schwartzenegger on California’s throne, and there was Steve, wading through the pamphlets and brochures, trying to figure out how you pick a winner out of a pack of a hundred when all you can see is the slick marketing.

Like his mama, Steve wears his heart on his sleeve. And literally at that. When he decided to get tattoos, he asked me to help design something that spoke to his ideas of family heritage and life philosophy. No impetuous, beer-fueled doodles for him. I was honored to be trusted with this, and he graciously let me share a version of the same ink (it’s on my foot). He has since added more to his collection, all beautiful, and of course, consciously chosen and personally meaningful to him.

Obviously, there is a lot about Steve that has a lot to do with me. But then there is that part that doesn’t have anything to do with me at all. It’s a construction of what he has observed and tried and discarded, ever refining who he chooses to be on any given day – and I find that I really like that guy. I like how straight he tries to shoot. I admire that he keeps trying. I’m humbled by how loyal he is to those he loves.

We are tight, Steve and I – and this is the greatest thing in the world to me. They say you can tell who a man is by how he treats his mother. Let me tell you… Steve is a good man.

Shopping

Sam with Dots

Like many of you, I plan to stay away from the stores this weekend. I have no interest in being part of any insanity that might happen on Friday, and I refuse to shop on Thursday – I’m voting with my feet by not giving businesses my money that day… perhaps if we all do this some people, like J-Girl (my son’s lovely lady) might get to have a saner holiday. She’s scheduled for 11pm Thursday to 11am Friday – and I find this just SO wrong. Call me old fashioned, but I’m all for shutting down commerce on holidays (and even Sundays) because I just can’t believe that people spending good time with other people could possibly be a bad thing. We already move too fast and communicate too electronically – let’s have a few more real time hugs!

So to that note… I urge you to consider the handmade for some of your holiday shopping options – the folks at Fiber Nation made a lovely argument in support of this. Etsy and other venues abound with wonderfully unique things, and all these artisans deserve some recognition for the often underpaid toil that they do.

I also have a few things to offer – as always, there are patterns and Sassy Buttons, but I also have some new partnerships in play: the Quilt Dots people are carrying all the Sassy and Knit buttons as magnets, and they sell jewelry bases for turning the magnets into necklaces and such. That pic above is of me from quilt market, modeling one of the Dots from The Bitchy Stitcher’s collection… and don’t worry, they have other great Dots with more traditional designs if that’s what you’re looking for. We embrace and celebrate the differences around here!

Also Cafe Press will print any Sassy Button saying on any of their merch, from t-shirts to coffee mugs to tote bags – to quote them, 35 designs on 2680 products!

Lastly… as you may have read, I’m about to pack up and move to the Pacific NorthWest. As I’ve been going through my stuff, I have discovered a few quilts that are ready to find new homes and I’ll be posting those for sale later today or tomorrow. There will be some sweet deals as I’m motivated to NOT pack them! Watch this space!

Countdown! Advent Calendar Tutorial

Before I launch into showing you how to make a sweet and quick advent calendar, I need to you let you in on something… I’m moving! I’m currently in So Cal, but by the end of the year I will be in beautiful Portland OR. I figure I’ve got weird pretty well figured out, so I think it’ll be a good fit! And to my dear and darling So Cal friends – please don’t be sad… I have SouthWest frequent flier miles. Just saying!

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Moving means packing, and packing means I’m looking at everything in my studio and trying to find a way to have a little less of it to box up. One of the things I have to (hopefully) move from my studio to yours are some kits for Countdown, the advent calendar pattern I designed last year. It has roomy pleated pockets instead of doors or ornaments, and goes together really quickly. Like most of my patterns, it’s easier than it looks – all the sewing is straight lines. It’s 12” x 44”, so stylishly skinny enough to fit on that one small scrap of wall that isn’t yet decorated to within an inch of its life.

You have OVER TWO WEEKS before the first of December… so you can totally fit this into your holiday madness. Totally! You can make it in a couple of afternoons, and perhaps one evening in front of the telly to do the binding and sleeve, especially if you do fusible applique on the numbers. If you choose to do some version of psychotic heirloom hand applique you’ll be at this for a while, and you’re on your own with that!

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So first up – those kits are on sale. Really good sale. And they include the pattern. Also, I’ve put the Countdown pattern itself on sale… dropped the price a couple bucks and made the shipping free. If you don’t want to wait for shipping, I’ve dropped the price for a download on Craftsy too. I’ll keep the prices down through the first week of December :-) And I’ll run to the post office as soon as you order so you get your kit or pattern pronto.

There are two versions of the kit… one that is kiddo friendly with cute snowmen on the panel, and the other that features one of the Alexander Henry Holiday Hunks for a more grownup vibe. And you can replace the picture panel of either version of the kit with something you like better (perhaps something from the Grinch line, or even a holiday Ghastlie).

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I also have just the hunks as single panels on sale for a mere dollar (yes… I really, really don’t want to pack more than I have to!)

What’s in the kit? Enough fabric for every part of the calendar… front, back, binding, sleeve, plus a printed pattern in a bag. You will need to buy a little fusible web for appliqueing the letters, and a rod for the sleeve. You probably have a scrap or two of batting that will fit the bill already.

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So go shopping… and then come back here for a visual run though of the pattern. Yes, I will illustrate the pattern steps in photos. But no, I’m not giving the farm away here… you’ll still need to buy a pattern to get the cutting info. But I trust you’re cool with that because I trust that you support artists getting paid for their talent.

Let’s begin!

I’m using a Hunks kit, and I’ll be giving this to a girlfriend who has had one of those years. I’m hoping to fill it with sewing notions and chocolate and other things that make her feel special. I felt like the fella should have a name… so I consulted my friend and fave quilt humorist The Bitchy Stitcher and she came up with Harry Hardpack. So say helloooo to Harry!

First, cut the binding strips from the fabric for the inner border/numbers/binding fabric. Set these aside.

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While you’re there, cut the inner border strips too, and subcut them per the pattern.

DSC_0608Sew them onto your feature panel/Harry – first sew the right and left sides, then press, then the top and bottom, and press again. These are skinny strips, so keep an eye on a good quarter inch seam here.

DSC_0610Next, cut out the background/sashing fabric. If you have a directional print, and maintaining the direction matters to you, then follow the directions more closely before you cut (you’ll be doing some lengthwise cutting, not selvedge to selvedge). This red fabric has some direction to it, but I decided to ignore it… and it honestly seems to not have mattered.

Subcut the first couple of steps from the pattern and sew them around the feature panel. At this point, I decided that labeling this pile of strips was going to keep me sane, so out came the sticky notes:

DSC_0611Now you’re going to make the strata that get cut into the pockets. Easy stuff. You already cut up the background, so now cut the pocket fabric:

DSC_0612This stunning picture shows the leftovers of cutting the pocket fabric… OOPS. I forgot to take one while I was cutting and sewed all the way to here before I figured it out:

DSC_0613You’ll make two chunks of strata – one is the full width of fabric, the other is about 14”. When sewing the strata, sew the strips into pairs first (and press) and then sew the pairs into bigger pairs (and press) and so on (sew on? ha!). Be really careful not to stretch when you sew or you will have a strata that bends like a donkey’s hind leg.

Press it REALLY well, and press the sashing towards the pockets (this is going to matter when you pleat the pockets later).

DSC_0614Cut the strata into the eight chunks that will become pockets, and take them to the ironing board. First make sure that you have the sashing pressed towards the pockets, then fold in half, wrong sides together, and press again.

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On the background section below Harry, and the seven remaining background sections, draw in some marks per the pattern. You’ll be using these to line up the sashing on the pockets. No need to draw all the way across the background, just a couple of lines at the bottom edge is fine:

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With the raw edges down, fit the pocket onto the background. Pin down the outer edges, then both of the sashes. Yes, the pockets should be puffy!

DSC_0621Next, pleat the pockets and pin them down. The pleat is going to fold back right at the pressed seam allowance underneath (see, told you that was going to be important!)

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Rinse and repeat for the remaining seven pocket sections.

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Run a basting stitch along the bottom at a scant quarter inch to hold these in place.

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Sew the top of one pocket section to the bottom of the pocket under the panel. Do it six more times to get the full calendar together and press it well, and press the pleats into the pockets. Yes, I forgot to take a photo of this too.

The pockets are going to be flopping around, but don’t worry about it. They will get sewn down as the piece is quilted. I recommend pinning the sides of the pockets in place first before you baste, but don’t worry about the centers.

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Lay down the back and batting, and baste it all in place. I use spray baste… yes, I know it’s an airborne adhesive, and it’s consumable, and my box of basting pins is still shiny after 25 years, and I could use the money for more fabric, and I DON’T CARE. Spray baste is addictive… one hit and you’ll be hoarding cans of it and panicking when you run low.

Set your machine up for quilting. I use the walking foot and on this one I chose a red thread that blended with the background.

DSC_0630Starting at the bottom, quilt a line all the way up the sides of the pockets, straightening them as you go. Try to get in the ditch of the pocket, but don’t catch the pleated part. Sew all the way to the top pocket and lock your stitches there. Do this five more times and the main body is quilted. Sweet, eh?

If you want to finish the quilting now, go ahead. I recommend stitching around the panel border, and maybe a little stippling in the negative space of your panel. And anywhere else for accent and emphasis ;-)

Now to the numbers… there are two different fonts in the pattern. I chose the more angular one as I thought the retro style would suit my friend. It also is probably the more fussy of the two to cut out (more holes in centers to cut). Draw the numbers onto the fusible web and iron them to the WRONG side of the fabric.

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Go make a cup of tea, load up some trashy TV and cut them out. Use some nice pointy scissors to get into the centers. You might also need some chocolate at this point too. Or perhaps something stronger than tea.

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Peel them and center them onto the pockets. You can go in numerical order or scatter them randomly – which I didn’t do because I’m just a teensy weensy bit uptight about organization. Check them twice just like Santa’s list, and then iron them down.

If you haven’t finished the quilting yet, get that done, and then trim the excess edges from the quilt:

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Go find the binding strips from the first step, and sew them together using the diagonal seam method: Place the strips right sides together at 90 degrees from each other, then sew across a 45 degree diagonal. You can chalk the diagonal first, or not:

DSC_0641Trim off the triangle leaving a quarter inch seam allowance.

DSC_0642Press those diagonal seams open, then fold the whole strip in half, WRONG sides together along the length and press to make binding. And then sew the binding around the calendar:

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Before you stitch down the back of the binding, make the sleeve. Press the short ends over twice and topstitch them down:

DSC_0645Then press in half, WRONG sides together:

DSC_0646Align the raw edges of the sleeve to the top of the calendar, and baste the sleeve a scant quarter inch from the edge, INSIDE the seam allowance of the binding. Make sure not to catch the binding in this seam, especially at the corners:

DSC_0648Red on red… hard to see! Look at the drawing in the pattern… it’s much better than this photo!

Finish the binding and sew down the bottom edge of the sleeve. No picture of that because I’m still working on it!

I used a 12 inch cafe rod in the sleeve of my pattern samples – they run about $5 in the rods and blinds section of your local hardware store. Knot a piece of ribbon into one end, then run it though the sleeve and tie into the other end.

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DSC_0652And you’re DONE!

HArry

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments so that I can answer them for all to read.

And if you have any sweet ideas for little somethings that I can put in the pockets for my friend, leave them in the comments too!

FREE Pattern for Veterans Day

Today is a day for celebrating those who have served. If you’d like to make a quick and easy patriotic quilt for a veteran, an active service member, or one of their family, I have a pattern for you:

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Leave me a comment (using an email that I can send back to) or send me an email at sewsamsew (at) gmail (dot) com by midnight in CA tomorrow (Nov 12) and I will send you a PDF copy.

And please thank them from me.

$ew Worth It – Education Idea #1

I was going to show you an image of a big box quilt here… but I’m happy to say there isn’t one in the house to photograph! So I’ll show you this one instead from quilt market… flying pigs made from bacon fabric:

Bacon pigs

The pigs and fabric are from Lily Gonzales-Creed, a new designer for Windham. Go see the rest of the line Farm to Fork here. I love how her delightful sense of humor comes out in the designs! And although I couldn’t talk her out of a pig (the pattern is coming soon!) she gave me some bacon fabric!!!! Woohoo!

Anyway… THANK YOU to all for the comments, love, support, links, forwards, blind copies of letters to potential buyers, hugs and requests for buttons. I’m blown away. Your support for this is what’s going to make a difference for us all. 

One reader, Gail Shearer, offered this as a comment:

About 17 years ago I went to a quilt show in Annandale , VA and the quilt guild had a $29.99 quilt from Wal-mart hanging up next to one they had made of similar pattern and colors.  They had a terrific display with a list and arrows pointing on the quilt enumerating what made the two items so different from each other.  At first glance, casual observers might not notice, but after 5 minutes with that display they had received a valuable education.  

How many of you have a guild show coming up? Can you propose this to the board? What if we all got this going at our guild shows???

Just saying! And thank you Gail!!

And as an update on the Bad Ass Gala – I had such a blast delivering my talk. There were a bunch of other people talking too, and everyone had something really important to share. It was an honor to be among them. I will let you know when the DVD is available. And I think my hair held up!

HDS Sew Worth It LOGO

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!