Friday, October 29, 2010

Comfort Friends

It's been another busy week and I've been away from the blog because it felt more appropriate to give my attention to life—my family, which feels so far away, especially during injuries and illnesses, my good friends who I am lucky to see about once a month when work takes me back to nyc, and plain old getting through the work day. I was in nyc for most of this week, where I had inspiring and engaging work to attend to, and time with some of my favorite people in the world. 

I went to college on the opposite side of the country from my family, so you'd think that I would have gotten used to the distance issue. But as easy as it is to fly about the country, I'm not sure one ever really adjusts to being physically far away from loved ones. Which is interesting to me because I firmly feel that home is in Des Moines—it's where I have a lovely life with my fiance, it's where I have a remarkable group of creative friends who are awesome enough to meet for breakfast every Friday and teach me new things, and it's where I found real happiness. I am learning, though, that all of the people that I love carry a piece of my home around with them. And sometimes it's hard not to have them down the street.

I think I'm trying to say that I'm happy to be home and am looking forward to a quiet weekend with my love. And that I miss my friends. And that I'm happy that my mom is coming on Tuesday (because we get to go make my wedding dress next weekend, weeeee!!!).

The sticky buns up above are something that I grew up eating on weekends with my grandparents. They, like my friends, are comfort, contained.

And next week, it's back to our regularly scheduled coverage of creative people and pursuits.

Until then, and as a thank you for indulging my somewhat emotional post, here's a batch of Link Love for you:

Caramelized Sweet Potato and Onion Tart looks like the perfect way to celebrate the first hard freeze. Hello, 30 degree weather!

I'm loving this DIY Athens Farm Wedding, especially the shots of the family making the tree backdrop. And that the bride made her dress from a sheet. And that she rocked cowboy boots.

Pumpkin Bread with Cinnamon Pecan Filling from Honey and Jam screams fall weekend. Or afternoon. With tea.

These Leaf pillows from Inklore are so simply and lovely. I love the lines of the leaves, especially.

I keep dreaming of this wedding band (yes it's in the men's section, but I love it) from Sarah Perlis. And this one, which has a bit more sparkle.

Happy weekend!

Monday, October 25, 2010

On Finding Patience (and Fabric)

Remember how excited I was about finding these vintage blocks? Well my love remains steady, and I spent Saturday afternoon finishing up sewing them together. The block with the bursts of orange flowers in the front left here is the design I have the most of, so that is the one block that pulls them all together throughout the layout. I've said numerous times how much more I prefer the quilting to the piecing, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to get started quilting this baby.

Except my scrap pile didn't offer up anything suitable that I could use for the backing fabric.
And while I went to JoAnn's early Sunday morning (where I saw a coworker and we laughed at our sewing sickness that caused us to get there just as the doors opened) and got enough fabric for the back, I'm not in love with it. The fabric, a light blue pin stripe, was really the only fabric in the entire store that I could imagine using. But it just didn't hold up. I mean gave it a shot: I washed and ironed it, and bound it together the the batting and the quilt top. But it's just not right.

Which has reminded me of a very important aspect of quilting: when something takes months to make, there is a reason you should love your components. You (I) won't finish if you aren't aching to use the completed work.

So I'm going to slow down, search for a backing fabric that makes my heart sing a little more, and we'll resume from there.

The one good thing to come out of all of that was that it inspired me to change things up and pick up my crochet hook again. So I'm making a set of light aqua blue coasters, just for fun.

Friday, October 22, 2010

October Print of the Month: Houses from Flora Douville

This is my tenth purchase in this year's mini print of the month series, which is my commitment to buying a photography or illustration print from an independent artist each month this year.
I have been enjoying my 2010 calendar from Flora Douville all year long and I've been dreaming of what I can do with the illustrations when this year is over. But to tide me over until that day comes, I've chosen the Houses Print as my October print of the month. I have had my eye on this one for months now and I kept thinking how great a gift it would make for a new homeowner. And then I decided that since I like it so much, I should have it in my newish house—especially since we've now lived here for almost exactly 6 months (which is just crazy! How is it possible that time has gone by that quickly?!?) and it very much feels like home.

Anyway, hooray for that! I think it's going to go into our living room.

It's been a busy week in the world of my day job—getting an issue shipped out to the printer requires A Lot of reading, so I am looking forward to relaxing this weekend. I'm also hosting breakfast club for dinner tonight, a new monthly ritual where we have our Friday morning meet up for dinner, so we can linger (and laugh) longer. So, the weekend will start off with the good company of my friends and will surely include more work on these vintage blocks.

Enjoy the downtime everyone!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Weekend Highlights: Whole Wheat Pear Chocolate Chip Bread and New Sewing Projects

I made a very important realization this weekend: when I'm stressed with too much work (or wedding planning or trying to decide whether or not to install hardwood floors or just new carpet upstairs), baking is an excellent way to restore balance. I had an overwhelming urge to make quick bread, so I did a variation on this one with 2 grated pears, walnuts and chocolate chips. And, just because I thought of it, we had this as French toast on Sunday morning. It was moist and rich, just the thing to start the day with a side of Greek yogurt. 

I also spent a good chunk of time getting two new sewing project in order. The first one is another small quilting project with a purple block that was the only one of it's kind in a stack of blocks I picked up recently at an antique mall (the rest are below), paired with remnants including some Liberty of London fabric that I had once used as a curtain, and lovely voile from Anna Maria Horner as the backing and edge. This one should quilt up quickly and I might try to save most of it for the Alabama wedding dress road trip.

The second project is one that will take a bit longer, but it's a quilt that I plan to use in our house, which is really exciting. I haven't made and kept a full sized quilt for myself since the first one that I made way back in 2002, and I just love the colors in these vintage blocks. Plus, I know that the size of the pieces on each block will lend to dense quilting, which will give the overall piece the texture I love.

I keep looking at the stitches, wondering about the woman who originally put these blocks together. It's a fascinating experience to work with a quilt that someone else started‚ humbling really, given the amount of work that went into these. There are 20 blocks, so I've arranged 5 rows of 4 blocks, and I'll do a border around that when the time comes.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dressing the Part, Wedding Dress Edition

I can be an extremely indecisive person, especially when it comes to ordering at a restaurant (I fear that I'll miss the most delicious thing and regret it forever and ever) and with buying clothing (I return what I purchase about 50% of the time because it feels different at home than it did in the store). So when my best friend sent me an email filled with exclamation points, sharing the fact that Alabama Chanin has a bridal collection, I knew immediately that was the way I wanted to go with the wedding dress.

To be totally  honest, as much as I enjoyed going to bridal salons to help other people choose a dress, that just didn't sound like something I wanted to put myself through. How on earth would I ever be able to decide? Not to mention, be able to tell what I really liked through what my loved ones might be telling me. So skipping past that entire experience makes me extremely happy.

Especially because my mom and I are road tripping down to Alabama for the first weekend in November to help make my dress. I know! I can hardly believe it either!

You all know how much I like to have a needle and thread in my hand, so having a hand in my dress feels so gut-level right. And giving my mom a chance to share the experience of making that important piece of clothing is going to be amazing, I can already tell. AND, getting to meet Natalie Chanin, a woman who I admire enormously, and her talented crew of seamstresses and sewers, is just icing on the cake.

So I've been spending some time trying to get exactly my ideal dress straight so that I am prepared when we get down there. Above you can see my inspiration board, which, sneaky me, is here without its notes so that the actual plan will remain a secret until the big day. But you will see that it will be embroidered in some amazing way, and it will most likely be white. 

I love that we've found a way for this aspect of the wedding planning to be an experience that I can share with my mom, and with other very talented women, that it will go very far in giving the actual dress layers of meaning. And I can't help but believe that my grandmother on my mom's side, who worked in a bridal salon as a seamstress for many years, would adore this plan. (That's actually a big reason in why I love this so much!) So to her and to all of the women who came before me to establish the tradition of women coming together to create beautiful things, thank you for helping to take the indecision out of this aspect of the wedding.

P.S. If you haven't heard of Alabama Chanin or Natalie, please click here and read all about the amazingness.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Vintage Fabric Accessories from Julie of Belle Rose Designs

 It feels as though all of my friends are having babies—which has me a little preoccupied by the challenge of creating a balanced life. How do you work hard all day and come home to care for your family? Or how do you stay home, work hard all day, and still have energy left for yourself? To help me sort through my own questions, I'm asking other creative women how they do it. Today's post is from Julie, who has a definite way with vintage fabric (which you know I enjoy!). Let's here from this mother of two and maker of bookmarks, jewelry and onesies how she does it. And if you're a creative woman with thoughts to share on this topic, please feel free to comment or drop me a line at thingswemake at gmail dot com. I'd love to hear from you!

Name: Julie
Location: Pittsburgh, PA

How do you balance your full time work as a librarian with your creative outlet?
Balancing work and being a mother is always tough for me.  I find the time when my children are sleeping usually during naptime on the weekends.  I crave the time I spend creating.  It's all my own! I get cranky without it but family and work obligations come first so I usually carry a notebook with me with ideas and sketch or write notes about projects.  That way when I get the time I can plan and create with purpose.

What's the best part about making things?
I love creating things and someone commenting on it and being able to say I made it! I also love when my daughter wears something I created for her and she loves and gets complimented on it!

What sets your work apart?
A lot of my jewelry is created with ribbon or fabric as the base and I think this sets my work apart from other jewelry designers.  My Rosette Ribbon bookmarks are fairly unique as well.  I strive to be original and create unique pieces.  I think that sets my work apart.

Have your children inspired you to create?
Immensely. I started creating fabric and ribbon jewelry because I had so many beaded creations ripped from my neck.  Ribbon and fabric can be pulled on but I have yet to have one of them destroyed by tiny hands. My daughter is my inspiration for my shop name too and is my harshest critic!

How old are they and what are their names?
Annabelle Rose is 3 and Dashiell is 18 months.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Stripe Meets Floral Quilted Wall Hanging, Done!

When I moved to Iowa, and even before when I worked with people from Kansas City, I heard a lot of them speak about collections. It sounded fun—going to antique malls to hunt for salt and pepper shakers, paper ephemera, and egg cups, but I couldn't imagine what I might like enough to have in spades.

Friends, I have found it. Vintage quilt blocks.

Last week a friend emailed to let me know that she'd seen an impressive display of vintage quilt blocks at the Brass Armadillo, a local antique mall. You know what I did? I left work an hour early so that I could go check them out, knowing that I wanted first dibs on the good stuff. (And that these would Surely be less expensive than the ones I used in my office wall hanging which were purchased in nyc.)

And that is when I realized that this could be a problem!

But until I have too many too possibly use, or hunting for them starts to interfere with normal life, I will just excitedly share my finds with you. Which is appropriate since I finished the wall hanging that I started last weekend with the blue florals and stripes—which you can see above—and am ready to start something new. I even added some decorative quilting on the stripes to give them a bit more texture. I love that it took only a week to do, and that I was able to get the sides relatively square.

I am going to work on squaring up the blocks that are in the pile on the left—there are 20 of them—and piece them together to make Josh and I a full size quilt. I love the subtle colors and that the small pieces mean that I'll do a fair amount of quilting on this, which will translate to heavenly texture. These two stacks which have about 50 blocks were, I kid you not, about the same price as I paid for 4 blocks in nyc. Hooray Midwest!

Thank you to whomever stitched these blocks together. I hope it makes you happy to know that they are being finished and will be put to very good use.

Friday, October 8, 2010

September Mini Print of the Month: Apple Blossoms from Wren & Chickadee

This is my ninth purchase in this year's mini print of the month series, which is my commitment to buying a photography or illustration print from an independent artist each month this year. I seem to have forgotten to do this during the actual month of Sept, so I'll catch up on October as well before this month is through.

After sharing last month's print with a friend who's just made some huge life changes (that forest road seemed like a good way to show my celebration of her journey), it feels like it's been forever since choosing a print for myself. When I saw a print from Wren & Chickadee a few days ago, I knew that one of their prints would be this month's pick. The shop, which is filled with light hearted prints, is a mother-daughter collaboration and I love the elegant femininity in the works.

It's been a busy week, so I'll be back Monday with more, but I though this lovely imagine was a perfect way to start a weekend.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Double Duty Necklaces from Magdalinen

I've had my eye on Jolanta's work for a few months now, and I'm pleased to share a bit of her creation process with you all today, all the way from Latvia. And, of course, to share a few images of her work. I love the pieces that can do double duty as a necklace and headband because as a person who's seriously indecisive about many things, I love the thought of having that flexibility. Not to mention the whole two-for-the-price-of-one business! So now, sit back, scroll down, and enjoy Jolanta's combination of delicate crochet, linen flowers and natural fibers.

Name: Jolanta Beinarovica
Location: Latvia

How did you learn to crochet and create accessories?
 I've always loved to crochet. My grandma and her sister were great craftsmen and did crocheting as well. I think that I've inherited this talent from them.

What inspires you to create?
I live in the countryside and one of the basic inspiration sources for me is nature. Inspiration for me comes from everything I feel, I see or I hear all around.

Is this your fulltime work?

My 9 month old baby is my fulltime work for now, but still I create when it's possible.

How do you balance your creative pursuits with the demands of daily life?
Sometimes it's really very hard to balance the creative part of my life with the daily life. But I'm happy for each challenge as it strengthens and develops my personality. The kind words, thankfulness, happiness and positive feedback I receive from my customers gives me strength and more inspiration to go on and create again. I'm heartily glad if my creations can make someone happy!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Stripe Meets Floral Quilted Wall Hanging and Green Tomato Jam

Since finishing my wall hanging, I spent a few nights embroidering, but soon had the urge to start a new quilting project. I'm sticking with the theme of small—this is another vintage block that I've surrounded with new (and new to me) fabrics.  I haven't fully decided what this one will be used for, but I think I'm going to start a stash of gifts, which seems like a great idea especially since this will only take a week or two to finish.

The outer floral is from Liberty of London and the floral blue is Monroe from Leah Duncan

The other bigger project I did this weekend was to make Green Tomato Jam. We had three bowls full of them from the garden and while some of them have slowly been ripening, I knew I should at least try to turn the rest into something. I was skeptical since I couldn't imagine what this would taste like—it's green tomatoes that are soaked overnight in sugar, a bit of salt, pepper, cinnamon and the zest and pulp of two lemons—but after letting it cool, I had it on No Knead Whole Wheat Bread (forgot how good it is!) with cheddar. So unexpectedly good!

I love the experience of trying new flavors, and I was happy to have a kitchen experiment turn out so well.

And in case you missed these last week, I have two posts over at ReadyMade that you might be interested in—it's fall baking season after all!

And the second is Harvest Nut Muffins made with cornmeal. 

Both are delicious and definitely helped me to embrace the cooler weather.

Friday, October 1, 2010

On Choosing a Ceremony Spot

Last week I showed you where we plan to have the wedding reception, so today we're taking a step back to the ceremony spot. But first I have to tell a little story.

On our first date, I met Josh for lunch at the Art Center, a lovely art museum in a tree-lined part of Des Moines with a stellar restaurant. He was, of course, there before me (he considers himself to be late if he's not at least 5 minutes early), and the first thing I noticed was his pink paisley shirt. Loved it. And then he gave me peas and sage from his CSA and garden in a brown paper bag. Which, you guys, if there is one way straight to my heart, it's by giving me homegrown veggies. So that definitely started us off on the right foot.

Cut to this summer, over a year after that first meeting, when we were in the market for a spot to tie the knot. The Art Center came up—it would have been a lovely spot for the entire wedding though it was already booked the day we plan to be wed—and then we realized that we could have the ceremony in the Rose Garden. Oh, yes please!

We had taken a walk around the garden after that first lunch, and I love how it rambles and goes on farther than you think it should. The roses seem to bloom sporadically throughout the summer (nice since we're getting married in early July) and the whole thing is surrounded by big trees. We like trees. When we were there checking it out to see if we were really interested, there came a point when we got to the farthest part of the garden, a part where the grass spreads out into an area Perfect For A Wedding*. It's surrounded my rose bushes, there is plenty of space for seating and there's a handy sidewalk to form an aisle (no heels getting stuck in the grass!).

We very quickly booked it and I'm really happy that this location will, fingers crossed in the direction of mother nature, be part of our day. I don't plan to do much to decorate the area because I rather like letting the plants do their thing and keeping it very simple. We'll see as the month go by, but for now, I'm content to just have flowers like these in our view.

*I am in no way claiming that having the ceremony here is a unique idea- it's highly popular for weddings, and for a reason, as you can see!