Get Lazy with Sarah

June 27, 2011

Hey, I just remembered that I have a blog!  That hasn’t been updated since February!   Not sure why- maybe I lost my stitching mojo. Chasing an adorable toddler all day leaves little energy for much else. And although it’s been 19 months, it’s still not easy living without Gwen.

But I did manage to squeeze in a few projects. First, a mini quilt for DQS 10.  Disappearing nine patch with batiks.

Mini quilt for DSQ 10

And my first Dresden Plate for the Lovely Linen Bee.  I was plenty nervous about attempting this block, but it turned out nicely!

May block for lovely linen bee

This block for the Linen Bee was the most improvisational thing I have ever done.  At first it seemed I was just making a big ol’ mess.  But, again, the end product looked much better than expected.

April block for Lovely Linen Bee

Yesterday I made these bibs with my very best fabrics for a baby shower.  This was a really fun shower because there were many beautiful handmade gifts.

Bibs for a baby shower

In non-sewing news, we had a clematis explosion,

Clematis explosion

then a lily explosion.  We are still waiting for the tomato and green bean explosions.

Lily explosion

And after 10 years, I got a new car!  This comely machine is a 2011 Subaru Outback and I am in love with it.

New wheels!

The purchase of this vehicle was most exciting, yet somewhat bittersweet.  As part of the deal, I traded in the handicap van I had used to ferry Gwen around town for so many years.  I couldn’t help but feel that I was losing another little piece of the remnants of her life. Yeah, the van is just a “thing”. And  I will never lose my love for my daughter or the wonderful memories of our time with her.  But still….


Second Annual Birthday Retreat

February 13, 2011

My birthday rolled around (again!) on the first weekend in February and, like last year, I celebrated by myself at St. Columba Episcopal Retreat and Conference Center. I had already planned to attend a half-day silent retreat on Friday morning, so I reserved a hermitage and stayed all weekend.

St. Columba has become an important part of my life over the years. When Gwen was with us, the monthly half-day retreats and the annual weekend retreat were the only forms of respite available to me. Now that she is gone, the solitude and silence I crave can always be found sitting by the fire in the lodge or rambling around the 40 acres with no distractions.

The two hermitages are small one-person cottages with a bathroom, kitchenette and a bedroom/living area with a fireplace. Last year, I took my vintage quilt along, but this year I had the memory quilt made for me by friends from church. It looked great in its rustic surroundings.

Memory Quilt in action

The weather was cold and I was tired, so I spent lots of time under this quilt basking in the warmth of a fire and re-reading the messages written by people who loved Gwen. In between many long naps, I spent the weekend traipsing through the woods looking for color in an otherwise bleak winter landscape. Surprisingly, there was plenty to be found, most of it supplied by fungi.

Such as oranges and reds…

color in winter- orange

color in winter- orange

color in winter- red/orange

color in winter- orange/yellow

Reds and greens. I love that random mahonia growing in the middle of nowhere.

color in winter- red

color in winter- green

More fungi in green and blue-green

color in winter- green

a href=”” title=”color in winter – green by Get Stitchy With Sarah, on Flickr”>color in winter - green

color in winter- green

color in winter- blue/green

This wrinkly raisin-colored mass that looks like fruit leather

color in winter- raisin

And a fungal trifecta with orange, blue-green and raisin all on one stick!

color in winter- a trifecta!

I was hoping for snow that weekend but only spotted a few stray flakes. A few days later, however, Memphis had 3+ inches on the ground! The retreat center undoubtedly looked like a white wonderland and I’m sorry to have missed it.

Although these birthday weekends are relaxing and renewing, I may have to skip next year. I will be having a big birthday (the kind where your age ends with “0”) and am not happy about it. So it will probably be better to throw a big party with friends and family than to brood alone about my geriatric status.

So y’all help me here. Should I have a Barbie, Dora or Disney Princess theme?

Cranking Out Hats

February 9, 2011

I finished three more hats for a fundraiser sponsored by my knitting group. Here they are photographed against our latest snowfall which is coming down hard and accumulating fast.

A button tab hat in Cascade 220. Pattern is here.

Button flap hat

A man’s cap loosely based on this pattern with different decreases at the top. It needs to be an inch longer to cover ears properly. The yarn is mystery yarn I got in a swap.

man's cap

And finally this fun earflap “Califairisle” cap with pompons and zig zags.

earflap cap with pompoms

Hat production is booming because I can knit at work while the baby is napping. The sewing machine, however, is slowly petrifying and will probably need to be jump-started when I try to use it again. If this snow keeps up, that could be tomorrow!

Stumbling Into 2011

January 22, 2011

January is almost over and I haven’t said a thing since December. Let me tell you why.

I had barely recovered from the holidays when a job fell in my lap! A friend of a friend needed a nanny for her 9 month old son and I started two weeks ago. So I take care of the easiest baby ever for 25 – 35 hours a week and we’re having a great time. I do the feeding, bathing, dressing and changing like I did for Gwen all those years, but I DON’T do doctors, sleep deprivation or first-time parent anxiety.

This is a perfect first step back into the job market because it’s fun and not stressful at all. Being on a schedule has been a big adjustment however. It’s been complicated by two snow days and a horrible stomach virus which had me up all Wednesday night and involved some serious heaving that left me a full 6 pounds lighter. I cannot recommend this weight loss plan, but I’m on the mend and have worked my way up to eating a baked potato for dinner. Woo hoo!

My sewing machine probably has spider webs on it, but the knitting needles are clicking along steadily. I made another Travelling Fern lace scarf, this time in maroon, for the Opera Memphis auction. As I have mentioned before, the opera company’s performances at Gwen’s school always inspired her to sing along and helped her acquire quite a reputation as a vocalist. For this I will be forever grateful.

Yet another Travelling Fern lace scarf

And a few hats to raise funds for a friend of mine undergoing fertility treatments.

striped beanies

bunny hat

The bunny hat pattern is from the book Itty Bitty Hats, a treasure trove of adorable designs for babies and toddlers. Pink yarn is Berrocco Pure Merino DK bought for a song on

Life will be different now that I’m working, but naturally, my creative dance card is full. I am doing DSQ10, the Lovely Linen Bee, and will be entering the Modern Quilt Guild’s Project Modern Challenge #2. I’m putting two knitted scarves for holiday gifts on the list and today I promised an earflap hat to a 1-year-old girl.

I had better log off and get busy!

Handmade for the Holidays

December 25, 2010

Wow what a crazy holiday season! I had it totally under control until a few last-minute projects popped up. But the celebrating was done by noon today and I immediately settled in for a long (5-hour) winter’s nap.

No more keeping the handmade gifts under wraps! First, some ornaments for a swap with my knittaz in the Memphis Knit Mafia. They did not have to be knitted, so I made mine from glass balls and pages from a fabric catalog.

Handmade ornament for swap

This was not a fast project, so I cut and pasted in the evenings while watching White Christmas three nights in a row. As a result I have been continually humming the tune from “Sisters” and thinking about technicolor blue dresses and fluffy feather fans. The Hancock’s of Paducah catalog didn’t stand a chance as I cut up the Kaffe Fassett pages for the color and photos of a blue fabric collection for one monochromatic ornament. When the glass balls were all covered, I strung them up from the bathroom shower curtain and applied three coats of mod podge to make them shine.

Handmade ornaments ready for swapping

There was minimal knitting since I have been so busy finishing the Crosstown Quilt and running all over Hawaii. But I managed to crank out a soft Saroyan scarf/shawl for my cousin. It was completed on Tuesday, blocked on Wednesday and given on Friday night. The yarn is Berocco Palace. The first pic is the best representation of the true color.

Scarf for my cousin

Scarf detail

About a week ago, I was searching for some stitch markers and found some yarn I had bought to make my sister a hat. Not just any hat, but a replica of the Ralph Lauren hat worn by the US athletes in the 2010 Winter Games. Last winter, these hats retailed for about $70, sold out before the Olympics started and then sold for up to $500 each on ebay for months afterwards. In March, I found a pattern for it on Ravelry, promised one to my sister, bought the yarn and promptly forgot about it. So I cast on in a hurry and did the stranded color work for the first time. It was not a fast knit, but I love the finished product. This hat is pretty big. If I made it again I would leave out some of the rows of white below and above the moose/reindeer.

Olympic hat

Even with all of this going on, I accepted two opportunities to make a little money. After all, the credit card bill with the Hawaii trip on it was coming! I picked up a quilt from a friend on Wednesday, bound it for her on Thursday and returned it Friday. Fortunately, my sister was in town and helped me get it done. I love binding quilts, so getting paid to do it is especially fun.

We also hosted a canine visitor for a week while her people were at Disney World. Annabelle is a good girl and a pleasure to have around. Her presence forces me to take those walks I should be taking anyway. While she was here, she snagged a half-eaten turkey sandwich off a counter while I was answering the door. Made me think I was crazy because I couldn’t find the sandwich and didn’t remember finishing it! The game was up when Larry spotted some telltale pickles on the floor.

We made a date to meet my friend Nancy and her wild-man dog Jethro at Memphis’s new dog park. This was my first visit to the park and now I know that it is THE place to go for free entertainment. That’s Annabelle on the left and Jethro mugging for the camera.

Annabelle and Jethro at the dog park

There are still two small gifts to finish and give. After that I’ll be working on two commissions (pillows and a shoulder bag), participating in a linen quilt block swap, and signing up for the next Doll Quilt Swap.

What will YOU be making in the new year?

We went to Hawaii!

December 13, 2010

After our daughter Gwen passed away last year, Larry’s family got together and gave us a vacation. One of his cousins had a timeshare she did not want to use due to the impending birth of her first grandchild, and the others chipped in for airfare. We decided to visit Hawaii (the Big Island) and scheduled our trip for right after Thanksgiving.

Neither of us had been there before and we tried our best to take in as much as possible. We saw lots of black lava beaches.

Lava beach

And spotted this sea turtle in a tide pool. He was snacking on algae.

Sea turtle

We took an historical sunset dinner cruise and saw a whale! It was about a week early for whale season but we got lucky. The native Hawaiian historian on board was not only very well versed on his state’s past, but he played a mean blues harmonica.

Historical Sunset cruise

We saw these windmills on the northern peninsula. Don’t they look pretty against the ocean? Hawaii is humid as well as windy, so don’t spend much time on your hair if you go there.

Wind power

The natives were very friendly, although these guys were a little stiff.

We made some new friends

The most amazing thing we saw was Volcano National Park. There was no red hot flowing lava to be seen the day we were there, so we spent some time walking around on old lava flows.

At Volcano National Park

At volcano National Park

I could not get used to seeing holiday decorations going up when the weather was tropical and balmy. And it was totally surreal to watch these adorable ballerinas dancing scenes from the Nutcracker outside in December!

Hawaiian nutcracker scene

There is so much more to show and tell! We’ll cover it all in later posts. For now I will leave you with this beautiful sunset we snapped on our last night on the island.

Postcard fodder

Crosstown Quilt for Project Modern Inspiration Challenge

November 26, 2010

The quilt is finished and the quilt-as-you-go method gets two thumbs up!

The inspiration: a parking garage next to the historic Sears building in the Crosstown neighborhood of Memphis, TN.

Parking garage quilt inspiration

The quilt

Crosstown Quilt for Project Modern

Measuring in at 54″ x 70″, this is the largest quilt I have ever made. The prints are all leftover fabric from a stack of thrifted clothes I sent out for a block swap last summer.

I used the quilt-as-you-go-method and will definitely do this again unless the long-arm fairy visits me in the meantime. Here are the steps I used:

1. Made all lantern and rectangle blocks. Arranged them on design wall.
2. Decided the quilt should be larger and made 21 more blocks for an extra row and two more columns.
3. Pieced the blocks into 9 larger sections measuring about 18 or 20 inches square.
4. Quilted each larger block to a piece of batting.
5. Sewed the larger blocks together.
6. Pressed the seams from step 5 very very flat with lots of steam and Mary Ellen’s Best Press.
7. Basted the seams from step 5 down using long running stitches to keep them from bunching up in the wash.
8. Pin basted the top to the back and quilted the whole thing by stitching in the ditch on some of the vertical and horizontal seams.
9. Pieced the binding from remaining fabrics and stitched it on.

detail of Crosstown Quilt

I was concerned that the seams with batting in them would be too bulky and look lumpy. Here are my recommendations for preventing this problem

* Use low loft batting such as Warm & White.
* Piece blocks into larger sections before quilting them to the batting. Fewer quilted sections means fewer seams with batting in them.
* Vigorously press seams with batting and baste them down as in step 7 above.
* Allow for a 3/8″ or larger seam allowance (instead of 1/4″) as these seams have some extra bulk. I did not do this and found myself with a few seam allowances that were too narrow to be stable. They had to be reinforced with hand stitching and it took forever.

For the back, I used a thrifted sheet.

The back is a thrifted sheet

I love this quilt even though all that precision piecing nearly left me cross-eyed. Now I am inspired to do a series of smaller quilts with Memphis-inspired themes and imagery. But that will have to wait until next year because there is much holiday knitting and sewing to be done!

Outdoor shot

Here are links to other quilts I’ve made from recycled clothes:
Men’s shirt quilt
Cherry print clothing quilt
Jumpers Baby Quilt
Pink prints mini quilt

November Stitching

November 14, 2010

After some intense work on the parking garage quilt, I took a break from the sewing room. My loser sewing machine started acting up again after I had just spent a lot of money on it, so I had to switch back to the old Elna. Yeah, the one with no thread cutter, no needle up and down button, and (eek) no walking foot. But it gets the job done and I am feeling guilty about all the times I called it names and wished for something “better”.

I remembered yesterday that the kids at church needed something to auction at their fundraiser tonight, so I made this cool scarf from a thrifted batik wrap skirt. I will be handing this over with some regret, but there is plenty of fabric around here for other scarves.

Scarf from thrifted skirt

The quilt has also seen some progress. I had to make 21 more blocks than originally planned to get the thing to the size I wanted! I joined the blocks into nine larger blocks and quilted each of them to a piece of batting. The quilting is simple due to the lack of a walking foot.

Parking garage quilt progress

Now I am sewing the large blocks together and thinking that this quilt-as-you-go method is the best thing since sliced bread. The plan is to have a finished product to show you by the end of the week.


November 6, 2010

It doesn’t look much like November in Memphis. We have yet to see our first killing frost and the plants around here are making up for time lost during our two months of heat and drought.

My Arctic Queen Clematis makes a second, more subdued showing once the weather cools down.


The melon patch is still producing


We are harvesting fresh green beans every other day.


And the neighbor’s roses are happy too.


This tree across the street seems more appropriate.

But it is fall!

Ahhhh, Memphis in autumn!

Parking Garage Quilt for Project Modern Challenge

October 2, 2010

The Modern Quilt Guild is sponsoring Project Modern, a year-long series of fun quilting challenges. Challenge #1, the Inspiration Challenge, is simply to make a quilt based on the inspiration of your choice.

The announcement of this challenge was all it took to get me started on a design I had been thinking about since the first of the year. Back in January, I took these photos of the parking garage adjoining the historic Sears building in Midtown. I thought the motif just screamed to be made into a quilt.

Parking garage

A lot of people hate this garage and call it a “mid-century monstrosity” because it doesn’t match the art deco style of the massive Sears Building. They’re right- it doesn’t. The store itself is an elegant structure, one of nine comparable mail-order and retail centers erected nationally by Sears Roebuck & Company between 1910 and the beginning of the Great Depression. The parking garage was added later.


My dad told me that he loved to go to Sears with his mom because they had rows and rows of shiny new baseball bats and gloves. Sadly, this building has sat empty for two decades despite several attempts at redevelopment. But improvements in the neighborhood make it much more likely that something can be done when the economy rebounds.

parking garage tail

I began by taking this close up shot of the concrete forms. Then I enlarged the photo so that only one repeat of the design was visible. From there, I printed it out and enlarged it a little more at the copy shop so that the lantern shapes were 12″ tall. I cut paper templates from the copies, transferred them to template plastic and started cutting my fabric.

I am using leftovers from the summer block swap quilt. The prints are cut from thrifted clothing and the sashing is Handspray by RJR Fabrics. This quilt will be about 54″ x 70″ and I’ll use the quilt-as-you-go method to quilt it. There is no way I am dragging such a large swath of fabric through my home machine! The backing will probably be a vintage sheet.

Here are a few of the 26 lantern blocks I have completed. I love them!

a few blocks for the parking garage quilt

I’ll keep you updated as this project progresses.

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