Monday, July 20, 2015

Cotton & Steel Mini Quilt Swap

You may have noticed a trend in my blogging posts lately... a lot of mini quilts, that have been sewn for various Instagram swaps that I've participated in. The latest one I completed was for the Cotton and Steel Mini Swap.

I had been excited to try the Sew On & Sew On block from the Fat Quarter Shop Snapshots Sew-Along. It seemed the perfect block to turn into a mini quilt for this swap. It was fun and easy to make, and I can't wait to make another for my own studio. 

I personalized this mini for my partner- purple fabric because it's her favorite color, a scrappy binding since she loves scrappy, and a fussy cut Tennessee to represent the state where she lives. I used matchstick quilting to quilt it all together. 

This picture was taken while I was on vacation, on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. I'm so glad I brought my good camera along for the day!

If you want to see more of the quilts created for this swap, check out the hashtag on instagram: #cottonandsteelminiquiltswap

Thursday, June 18, 2015

{Foundation Paper Piecing} Take Wing Butterfly

A few months ago, I came across the most amazing paper pieced butterfly on instagram (check out @lillyellasworld). My thoughts were exactly as follows: "That is so gorgeous. But I could never make anything like that."

 When I catch myself thinking like that, or get too intimidated to try something, that's when I know I'm not living my life the way I like to. 


I don't like to get so comfortable that I never try new things or challenge myself to reach big goals. So when I start to get discouraged, I try very hard to turn my weaknesses into strengths. I had the same attitude before running a half marathon a few years ago. So I decided that somehow I would figure out how to make this butterfly, even in the midst of a big move and a busy summer!

Having a deadline always helps me reach my goals. It just so happened that I had said yes to joining a fun quilt swap, organized by my friend Ashley at Mommy By Day, Crafter By Night. As soon as I was assigned a partner, I knew I wanted to make this butterfly for her. 

Foundation paper piecing forces you to visualize sewing like you never have before. I watched this video on YouTube to help me out a little. My first try was a total flop. I gave up and went to bed. While laying there that night, it dawned on me what I was doing wrong, so I woke up early and I figured it out!

Every bit of progress was an exciting victory. 

With foundation paper piecing, you sew through paper, following a pattern, which helps the fabric to be sewn very precisely. I LOVE that you don't have to press seams open with foundation paper piecing! 

Here's a look at the backside of the butterfly, before and after the paper is removed.


I'm so glad that I worked hard to figure out how to create this lovely butterfly!

The pattern is called "Take Wing," created by Nicole Young of Lilly Ella's Stitchery. It is such a brilliant pattern, and it was so much fun to make! I purchased it on Etsy HERE.

The majority of my fabrics are from Alison Glass's Handcrafted collection. I had been saving these for a very special project, and I'm so happy with how they look in this butterfly. I also added a small splash of my favorite Liberty Lifestyle print, in the butterfly and for the binding, because my partner loves Liberty!

I created this butterfly mini quilt for oh so talented and beautiful Jemima from Tied With a Ribbon. I 'met' Jemima on instagram (check her out at @tiedwitharibbon), via Ashley. She lives in Australia! It is so fun to have sewing friends all over the world! 

Stitching up this label took me almost as long as it took to sew the whole quilt top! Haha! But I really enjoy stitching, especially on the airplane or while I wait at my daughter's ballet practice. 

Here's a look at the backside. It features the Handcrafted fabrics so well!

I had such a great time participating in this swap. My husband couldn't believe I was letting this go! So that means I have to make another for myself, right?

The little string art pin cushion was a little extra I included. Strings by Samantha is an especially talented string artist that I found on Etsy a few months ago. She custom created a few things for me, which I love giving as small gifts!

Speaking of the Happy Mail Mini Swap, this is the gorgeous gift that I received from Mia at @mlrdesigns on instagram. Check out all those rainbow-tized FLYING GEESE! I love flying geese so much!!! I love everything about this mini, and it is going to look so cool on my mini quilt wall as soon as I am moved and settled in.

And, check out this strawberry needle book that Mia made for me. She is such a talent and so sweet to have included this. I adore it. 

Quilting friends and quilt swaps are the best! Check out the #happymailminiquiltswap on instagram to see who else was in the group and the gorgeous minis that were created! Thanks again Ashley for organizing such a fun event! It was a great way for me to overcome my hesitations about foundation paper piecing!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Violette Value Quilt

When Amy Butler's team asked me if I'd be interested in sewing with her new line of fabric called Violette, it was an offer and privilege that I just couldn't pass up. Not only do I LOVE the deep, rich colors and patterns in this newest line of fabric, but I also love how it came to be, which is inspired by the south of France. I spent some time in the south of France when I was in college, so this fabric struck a chord with me all around.

I knew immediately that I wanted to sew a quilt for my dear friend, who I was roommates with in France! She just had a baby, so this quilt will be for her. Her baby's name is Jade, which is so fitting for this quilt, since several of the fabrics that I chose are from the "Jade" collection.

When it comes to designing a quilt with Amy Butler fabrics, my first thought is to not cut them up too much. Some quilt patterns have such small pieces, that if you are using larger scaled fabrics, you can easily lose perspective of the lovely detail designed into the fabric. I opted to make a Value Quilt, a pattern I first saw on Sew Katie Did's blog years ago.

I have to give a big shout out to my friend Mary Dugan (of Molly Flanders Makerie). As I was in the middle of making this quilt, I fell down the stairs and cracked a rib! I had to take a break from sewing for a couple of weeks. Mary asked if there was anything that I needed help with, and since I couldn't put any pressure on my right arm with a rotary cutter, Mary trimmed up all these blocks for me! What an amazing friend!!

It's a quilt made with half-square triangles (HSTs). Its amazing how just the twist of a half square triangle can completely transform the look of the entire quilt. I love how this quilt top came together.

My HSTs finished at 6.25 inches.

I quilted the quilt with straight lines with a dark blue thread.

Here is the back.

 I love this wavy stripe for the binding.

Thank you so much Amy Butler for creating these gorgeous fabrics!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mini Quilt: Hadley Woven Star

Last year, I decided it would be fun to try something new and join a mini quilt swap. They are usually organized over on instagram, and its a really fun way to be involved with sewing something small for a fellow quilter. I participated in the #IGminiswap, and it was a lot of fun.

My partner liked traditional quilting, either in batiks or neutral fabrics. I went through my stash and thought this lovely Denyse Schmidt fabric (from her Hadley collection), combined with a few off-white low volume prints might do the trick. 

I had been itching to make the Woven Star pattern, and sized at 16 inches, it was perfect. It's a free download over on Stitch Supply Co.

The pattern is made of either tiny squares or tiny half square triangles (HST). Really fun and really easy to make.

One of my goals in signing up for a mini quilt swap was to use that as a reason to try a quilting technique that I had never tried before. For this mini, I decided to attempt Free Motion Quilting (or FMQ). I love the look of Loop-de-Loops. I armed my hands with my quilting gloves (yes, there is such a thing!), and off I went. A few of my loops turned out a little wonky, but not too bad for my first time!

I especially love how it turned out on the back side! 

All I had left was the binding, then voila! I loved making this quilt so much.

I bought my cute little labels from Pick Your Plum last year. And the wire sewing machine quilt hanger is from Ackfeld Wire.

I love this pattern so much, that I'm itching to make another. That's the only bad thing about signing up for a swap- you'll make one to send away, but also want to make one to keep! But that's also the beauty of quilting. I love creating pretty things for others to have and enjoy.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fat Quarter Shop Fabric Giveaway

**Update: Congrats to Amber @ chiefhouseholdofficer, for winning the giveaway!

If you read my blog, then you might be a quilter/seamstress, and that means you've probably heard of the Fat Quarter Shop! Chances are, you love and adore them just like I do!

They have been with my blog since the very beginning. They were my very first sponsor. And since then, they're sponsored numerous every single one of my events including Sewvivor, Sewlebrity Crush, and several giveaways. I'm excited that today I get to offer another sweet giveaway for a $25 Gift Certificate. 

To enter the giveaway, scroll to the bottom of this post for more details. 
Here are a few more reasons why I LOVE the Fat Quarter Shop...

They have a wonderful selection. They always carry the exact fabrics I'm looking for. They consistently travel to events such as Quilt Market and QuiltCon, and stay up to date to bring us, their customers, the latest in all the fabric trends and selections.

Every package always arrives extremely quick, and in perfect condition. They take great care to package the fabric very nicely.

They offer excellent customer service, which is nice when you have questions or need help with an order. A definite must in my book!

They are very active with the online sewing community. This makes them extra fun to get to know. They recently launched a Quilt-along called Snapshots, where they launch a new block + pattern on the 15th of every months. It is free, but anything you donate goes directly to St. Jude's Children's Hospital, so its a great way to offer a bit of love and charity to a great cause. Anyway, I fell in love with February's block, Sew On and Sew On. I am planning on turning it into a mini quilt for the Cotton and Steel Mini Quilt Swap that I'm participating in over on Instagram.

Also this month, they launched a fun series called March Minis, (a spin off March Madness)! Fun!! Any mini quilts that you sew during the month of March can be shared on Instagram with the hashtag: #fqsmarchminis. You'll be entered to win a fun giveaway for participating. We'll see if I can finish up my Sewing Machine Mini in time to enter!

Now... on to the GIVEAWAY for a $25 Gift Certificate!

To enter, visit their website and take a look. Find your favorite fabric that you're crushing on right now, and then come back here and leave a comment on my blog telling me what it is! Please leave your email address.

For extra entries, follow the Fat Quarter Shop and/or Family Ever After on Instagram, and leave a separate comment for each.

So, that's 3 possible entries. The winner will be announced next Thursday, March 19. Good luck!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Family Organization Center, Kid of the Day, and Family Store

I've been waiting to write this post for over a year... I've waited so long, because it was super important to me that everything I'm about to share was tried and true and actually worked for our family. I'm happy to report that our "Family Command Center" has worked miracles for my kids and me. Being organized is a personal virtue that I strive to maintain. Organization is absolutely necessary when you are the mom of 4 kids and wife to a busy husband! Managing the schedules, menu, homework, papers, routines, goals, and chores is a huge job! I admit that I run a tight ship, but once the work is done, our kids still have plenty of time to play and just be kids. I'm also the first to admit that when we have visitors, or a snow day, or something unexpected, I'm the first to throw the routine to the wind, and just go with the flow! I do love being organized... (especially because I know how it feels to be completely unorganized-- my life used to be utter chaos, and my kids had no responsibilities. We all much happier when we know the expectations). Every family has certain ways of maintaining sanity, and here's what works for us!

(I really hope the green doesn't blind you... that color choice was an epic fail, darn it, haha)!

At quick glance, here's what's going on... 

Menu- I write the week's dinner meal plan
Calendar- to keep track of everyone's activities, appointments, birthdays, etc
Family Theme- a goal we set together at the start of the new school year
Bulletin Board- to hang reminders, party invitations, lunch menu, etc
Kid of the Day- this has saved my sanity!
Clip Boards- the kid's responsibilities

Here are more details about each of these...

 Yay... everyone can quit asking me what's for dinner! "Just check the menu!" I plan out my menu on Sunday, then do all the main shopping on Monday, with a "pit stop" on Friday or Saturday. I'm the type that must have a cooking plan for the week, or we end up eating scraps. I also have a typed-out grocery list (I print it off every week, and just circle the items I need. I also keep my weekly menu plan hand-written on my grocery list for easy reference).

The way I plan my meals goes like this:
Sunday- Meat & Potatoes, or something ethnic (Hungarian, Russian, Asian), Dessert
Monday- Soup, Salad, or Seafood
Tuesday- Taco Tuesday
Wednesday- Breakfast
Thursday- Italian
Friday- Pizza
Saturday- Restaurant, Leftovers, or FYO (find your own)

 I keep a personal planner, so all the things written on our dry erase board are also written in my planner. But with so much going on, I needed to have a main place where everyone in the family can refer to plans, and add their own!

Family Theme-
 I got this idea from Stephanie at NieNie Dialogues years ago. She is a wonderful mother and inspires me in so many ways! At the beginning of a new year, we decide on a theme that we'd like to focus on as a family, and write it down. Maybe in a few years, I'll make them all into decorative printables! 

Bulletin Board-
In our next house, this needs to be bigger. This space is mainly for anything related to the kids; school lunch menu, birthday party invites, spelling words, etc. It isn't very pretty, but I have found that if it's 'out of sight, its out of mind.' If the kids have something super important for me to remember, it needs to be on this board.

Kid of the Day-
 A few years ago, I was sitting in the waiting room at the pediatrician's office, reading Parenting Magazine. I read a small column written by a mom who invented "Kid of the Day" at her house. She used this system starting when her kids were toddlers, up until they were teenagers! It was like an ah-ha! moment for me, exactly what I needed to hear, and I felt very inspired to implement this immediately. At home, we had been dealing with the pettiest little arguments- who got to sit at the special dinner seat, who got to eat with the fancy spoon, who got to choose the first bedtime story, who got the longest snuggle at night, and on and on. Most of the time, I had no good answer for who got to be first or who deserved the most special treatment. I try hard to treat all the kids the same, but some nights, I just didn't have the energy to snuggle every single kid. (We had three at the time, all two years apart. Now we have four kids)!

You can probably see where this is going... I introduced "Kid of the Day" to my kids, and it has honestly worked wonders. It just rotates day after day. The Kid of the Day gets the special treatment, whatever that may be. This has alleviated so much nonsense, arguing, and stress! It's great to let one kid feel a little extra special for a day. The other kids understand that if its not their day, then they get to be "happy" for the special kid. If an argument begins, all we have to say is, "So-and-so is Kid of the Day," and it puts all objections to a stop right away. 

I try not to use this as a behavior method. I feel like each child needs to be included in the rotation on a regular basis. There have been a few times when one of the kids lost the privilege of being Kid of the Day, but that honestly makes me sad, so I try not to revert to that. 

These days, Kid of the Day comes in handy for ipad privileges, helping me cook dinner, and the nightly massage and snuggle. (If I didn't have some system in place, they'd all argue over who gets my ipad, I'd have 3 little helpers underfoot in the kitchen every night, and I'd be up until midnight snuggling each kid! This way, I at least get a little bit of one-on-one time with each kid, without feeling guilty for not having the time to do this each night with each kid). 

Anyway, its a great little system, and I love that it evolves with the needs of family. Give it a try if you think it could help your family!

As far as keeping track of who is "Kid of the Day," I made a chart to hang on the wall with our Family Command Center. To make it, I found a rectangular shaped frame. Then I went to Home Depot and bought a magnetic piece of metal. I removed the glass from the frame and used it as a template to cut a piece of metal with metal cutters. Then I replaced the glass with the metal in the frame. I hung a wallet sized picture of each kid on the metal. Then, because I am a seamstress, and I wanted a touch of handmade somewhere on my wall, I decided to embroider the words "Kid of the Day" onto a piece of linen, backed with interfacing. Then, like a tiny little pillow, I sewed on a backing, and stuffed it with batting. Before I stitched it shut, I slipped in a small magnet, which works perfectly for rotating each kid on the "Kid of the Day" board.

I drew a few for practice...

And worked on them while my girls were at gymnastics classes.

Clip Board Jobs-
As far as the kid's jobs go, this could be a whole separate blog post, but I'm running out of steam typing this all out, haha. I spent a few DAYS creating these charts in Word. I personalize them according to each of the kid's needs. I didn't feel it necessary to write out morning routine since its fairly easy, and the kids have me ramming down their throats serving as their reminder. But their after-school routines are very important to me, and I'm very happy that they are each learning good habits and successfully contributing in our home. 

For each job, the kid either gives her/himself a CHECK (done) or an X (undone). Sometimes, we have exceptions, and on those days, they write a LINE. (For example, we decided to eat out, so there weren't any dinner chores that night. A line counts neither for or against them). See more Family Store below, for an explanation of the bottom of this chart, and how we do allowance.

For my kids who need help with reading, I found clip-art pictures to insert in the chart. It describes what the job is, and they can help themselves without me having to stand over their shoulder reading off every single job. One improvement I've made to this Job Chart since I photographed it, is that I have made each day have a different color of ink. (Just in the row where the Days are typed). That way, I can tell them that today is the "blue day," and they can follow the column to fill out their chart on their own.

Here is a link on Google Docs if you'd like to access my Job Chart. Hopefully you'll be able to save a copy, and then you can personalize it the way you want for your own kids!

Family Store-
Back to talking about the Family Store... when I was a newly-wed, I looked up to a young mother who ran a family store, but I never thought to ask her the details about it. So I racked my brains to come up with something that I knew would work for my family. In my efforts to teach our kids about responsibilities, I also want to teach them about money. One night, I literally laid awake in bed half the night, as ideas kept flooding my mind on how to set up our family store, and how to manage the "bank."  I honestly believe that this system is inspired and was an answer to my prayers on how to manage and teach my children. The math is simple. The rewards totally work for each of our kids, in surprisingly different ways.

The reason I believe in allowance, is because I feel that my kids need the opportunity to make financial decisions.

Here's how it works:
Each Monday evening, we hold a special Family Night. At the end, we do the Family Store to tally up all the charts and pay allowance. The kids count all the CHECKS they earned, and multiply that number by 10. They count all the Xs and multiply that number by 10. They subtract the X total from the CHECK total, to come up with the TOTAL amount earned for the week. (They see how those Xs can really deduct from their total earned amount, which has really motivated them to get their jobs all done)! So, once the total amount of allowance is recorded, I physically pay them the total in cash. From there, we calculate 10% to charity, 40% to savings, and 50% to spending. Each kid has a piggy bank with 3 sections to organize their money. Once a month, they empty out the tithing and take it to church. Periodically, we deposit their saving money into their real savings accounts at the bank. The spending cash is theirs, and they can do whatever they want with it. Some of our kids spend it immediately on smaller ticket items, and others have saved up for larger purchases. It's a lesson in immediate gratification vs. patiently and wisely saving. (Our 8 year old daughter saved all her spending money last summer, to earn a set of golf clubs. Once her Grandpa heard about this, he said that we would pay for half once she had earned her half. It was such a special lesson for her)!

I keep the Family Store in our basement. It is comprised of 3 bins...
1- Where I keep all the money. All the coins and bills are organized in separate, labeled ziploc bags. I only keep about $50 total in the bank at a time. It recycles itself when the kids purchase items out of the store, so it lasts quite a long time. I used to have fake money, until I realized that the kids took it more seriously with real money, plus they can actually take their money to church or a real store and spend it, which is also a great learning opportunity.
2- Where I keep smaller items, usually very cheap items from the $1 section at Target.
3- Where I keep bigger items.

Occasionally when I'm at the store, one of the kids sees a toy they really want. Instead of saying NO all the time, sometimes its nice to be able to say YES. When I do, I say "Yes, I will buy this and save it for you in the family store. You can save your money and earn it." Sometimes I also let them save their money and earn an actual trip to the store, instead of only being able to buy from the family store.

For now, ten represents $.10, meaning that each check earns them a dime, and each X causes them to lose a dome. Perhaps in the future, we'll increase the earning potential up to a quarter, but right now a dime is all that works for our budget. This translates to each kid earning on average $5 a week.

My List-
In case you don't think I'm organized enough (hehe), here's something else I thought I'd share. It's my personal list, my saving grace. It's inspired by my mom, who also swears by a daily checklist. I won't go into all the details, because I've personalized this for myself, but it really helps me stay on top of my game. I prioritize my Good, Better, Best. I no longer feel like a chicken running around with my head chopped off. I have focus and direction. Important to note... I don't think there's ever been a day when I checked every single thing off my list, but hey, at least I try!

I also have a list for grocery shopping, a monthly to-do list, an annual to-do list, a budget spreadsheet, a vacation packing list, a food storage list, a list of longterm projects, a blogging calendar, an important date list, and yeah... now I'm just embarrassing myself. :)

Kid's Baskets-
The last thing I'm throwing into this post is how I organize my kid's school papers, projects, drawings, cards, certificates, etc. I throw out a lot, but the things I want to save get put in here. At the end of every school year, I empty the basket and hole punch everything. I put it in a simple notebook, labeled with their name, age, school year, and grade. It's a really simple scrapbook.

The scrapbooks look something like this (not a very special photo- just keepin it real, haha). I make some for myself as well.

Don't ask me how I organize my family photos. This is the department that is STRESSING me out like crazy! All my photos are saved on my computer, and I've never done anything with them. This will be a priority soon, and I've got some great ideas up my sleeve...

Well, you made it to the end of my craziness. I'm slightly embarrassed by how crazy I must sound. But I only share because these systems have literally changed my life, and I'm hoping they can inspire you with some new ideas. If you read this, I would honestly LOVE to hear your thoughts about it in the comments!!! I'd also love to hear any inspirations you've had, or your own ideas and systems. I would love to learn something from YOU!

Edited to Add:
I thought I'd share a few of my favorite products that help us at home. I took several trips to Target and Hobby Lobby to buy items for my wall (and then to return some that didn't work). I found my favorites on Amazon. 

Hands down the most helpful thing are the banks that my kids use. We have these...

But I have had my eye on these. I love them because they have 4 compartments that actually would work better for our needs. There's a place to save their spending money, or to spend their spending money, donate (such as tithing), and invest (save for college).

I love these chalk markers to use on my chalkboard menu.

This is the dry erase calendar that I have.

Metal cutters (that I used for my Kid of the Day board. They cut through sheet metal like butter).

These are the mesh metal file holders that I use for the kid's papers.

(contains affiliate links)