Friday, April 25, 2014

Ms. Pearl (Quilt)

Remember way back when we had our little peanut?  Well, this project started long before that.  Fair warning, if this post is long, it's because there's a lot of love in this quilt and I want to share it with everyone.  Back when we found out we were pregnant, I'd just started reading one of my favorite blogs, Young House Love.  They're pretty famous now, so if you don't know about them, Google it.  Anyways, they'd just had their first baby and decided to do this.

Basically, each week they took a picture of their daughter Clara on a yard of fabric and used Photoshop to add how old she was on her shirt.  You all know I love a good project so I was sold!  I wanted to capture Abby's first year in the same way, but I added my own twist.  And that, is the beginning of this quilt.

When my mom hosted a baby shower for me she asked that everyone attending bring 1 yard of fabric to help build my stash for this project.  I'm SO happy that I asked for fabric from all of my friends and family.  It's given this quilt so much more meaning instead of just being pretty fabric I liked.

That ugly Bears fabric up there (Yes, I'm a Packer backer) came from Ryan's mom....the elephant at the top came from Abby's Uncle Andy (he loves the zoo).  Anyways, having this very personal fabric with stories behind it makes this quilt so much more special.

Each week I took out a piece of fabric and snapped a shot of my peanut on top of it.  I blogged the photo along with a story about the fabric and the person that gave it to us along with some little highlights of our week for our friends and family to follow along.  If you want to check it out, click here.  The hyperlink will start at her most recent, 20 month photo, but if you scroll back to the beginning, you'll see how the project unfolded.

So, one could easily say that this quilt, this fabric, and my little Abby are the reasons that I started quilting late last year.  I'd always planned that I'd use the fabric in a quilt, but my original intention was to send it all to a quilter and let someone else do the heavy lifting.  I mean, I'd just spent the last year taking pictures and editing photos, I was ready for my part of this project to be done.  I'm a knitter, not a sewer.

But, sentimentality caught up with me and I decided this quilt would be even more special if I made it myself.  So, I enrolled in the Quilting 101 class at my local quilting store.  I bought a low end Pfaff sewing machine (even the low end is expensive!) and I spent 6 weeks learning how to cut, piece, quilt, baste, back and bind a quilt.  We made three small projects during the 6 weeks and I figured I'd make a few baby quilts before taking the plunge into Abby's giant project.

What I didn't account for was the addiction I quickly had for quilting.  I loved it...I love the precise cutting, I love working on each little block and then combining them all together to make something grander.  I just loved the whole process from start to finish.  I started cutting on my first baby quilt and I realized I just wanted to work on Abby's project.  It was the whole reason I'd started quilting and I wouldn't be happy until it was complete.  I didn't want this project to end up being one of those that I'm still talking about 10 years later.  So, I scoured the internet for a pattern I loved and got to work adapting it so I could use all 50 fabrics I had.  In the end, I ended up needing a queen sized quilt to fit them all in.

Sure, a queen size blanket is extreme for a little girl that weighs just over 20 lbs, but I wanted to get all the fabric represented and I want this to be something she will cherish when she gets older.  I haven't decided yet if we'll use this blanket in our daily lives or if I store it someplace safe until she's a little older and can understand, but I've never been a fan of putting the things we love most behind glass or in the closet and never using them.  To me, its the memories that you create with the things that make them special.  It's the ice-cream drips and grass stains that show that you truly love something.  So, we'll see.

Ok, so enough about the story behind the quilt and more about the quilt itself.  It's made of 132 
"arrows" each fabric is represented 2-3 times.  My favorites (like the Green Bay Packers one above) are included 3 times, while some of the less memorable (ie: I bought them at Joann's just because I needed more fabric to fill out the weeks) or harder to use fabrics are in there twice.  

The pattern I chose is Pow-Wow by Cluck Cluck Sew.  I used a very light blue for the sashing and a minty green (hard to see here) for the backing.  Actually, can see the colors of the fabric better in the pictures below.  I started the quilt in November 2013 and finished it up just last week.  If I'm being honest though, it could have been finished much sooner.  I actually had the quilt ready and sent off to a long arm quilter back at Christmas time.  She had the quilt for about a month and I had it back just after Valentines day.  All I needed to do was finish off the binding but life got in the way and I had those few baby quilts I needed to finish for the showers and this one took a back seat for a second.  

It measures 88 x 100 and is huge!!  I'm so happy with my choice to send this one out to a long arm quilter.  The quilt is so special to me that I wanted it done professionally.  And, my small machine doesn't have the throat space I'd need to quilt something so large (the space between my needle and the machine).  It's bound with a mix of some of my favorite fabrics from the project.  I cut 18 inch strips and ran them all around the edge using the zigzag stitch to machine bind both sides.  I can't imagine how long it would take me to hand bind something this big!

The quilting is a mix of flowers and loops and she used pretty pastel variegated thread.  It's very girly and the perfect accent to make this quilt all "Abby".  I'm so excited to finally call this project done.  It's been a year and a half in the making and it's by far one of the most special projects I've ever done.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

1 Family x 12 (April)

 Can you believe it?  A family picture WITH the dogs!  I don't think we've been able to snag a picture with both the dogs and all the people looking since Abby was born!  This past weekend we were camping at Starved Rock with Chris and Brenna.  I'm so glad I handed over the camera to Chris to grab our family picture for this month; he got a great shot. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter egg hunts and camp fires

We celebrated Easter a little unconventionally this year.  Two busy families and a scheduling mishap and we ended up planning a spring camping trip for Easter weekend.  We couldn't have asked for better weather.  In fact, I think we'll try a spring trip every year now.

I was warm (70's), sunny and perfect for camping.  There were no bugs and the camp sites were relatively open.  The trails were packed with families trying to enjoy some of the first warm days of the year but once we got a few miles from the visitor center, the people thinned out. 

After we returned from our hike I figured it would be a good time for an Easter egg hunt with Abby.  I didn't go crazy, just 6 eggs conveniently filled with Ryan's favorite candies.  She needed a little help from Daddy about the "point" of the whole thing but at about egg #5 she got it.  Then, when she realized there was something sweet inside, well, all bets were off.

Next year, the Easter egg hunt is on!  I'm excited that she's finally starting to understand and enjoy holiday traditions. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Wild Blue Wilderness (Quilt)

Another baby on the way, another finished quilt to share with you!

I made this quilt for Ryan's cousin, Jenny.  She's having a baby girl at the end of the month and I'm so excited that someone else in the Muprhy/McGrath family is joining the baby train.  Sadly, Jenny and Jack live in Nashville so Abby won't get to hang out with her new cousin as much as we'd like....but I'm so excited to have another baby in the family to shower with love.

I think the back of this quilt is actually my favorite part.  Isn't that fabric cool?  There's a close-up a little farther down, so keep scrolling.

I used a pattern called Square City and this quilt went together really fast once I got the fabric cut.  The pattern is out of a  book I bought called "Weekend Quilts".  The idea of making an entire quilt in just one weekend is blasphemy.  I mean, if you had the fabric cut, and counted making the TOP of the quilt as being done, then sure.  But the whole process takes some time.  I started this one back in January and finished it up just in time for her shower last weekend.  Weekend my A....well, you know what.  :O)

When I talked with Jenny back at Christmas they still didn't know if they were having a boy or a girl and she told me she really wanted lots of gender neutral items.  I was excited because I'd fallen for this fabric long before talking with her so I took the opportunity to work in something other than pink for their little girl.  

The fabric is from the Indian Summer line by Sarah Watson (Spirit Lake palette).  My go-to fabric store is called Stash Modern Fabric on Etsy.  I LOVE the bundles they put together.  They often take their bundles to the next level by incorporating fabrics from a few lines/designers into one bundle making your quilts look great and pop!  If I'm being honest, I'd tell you that I just ordered another package of fabric from them yesterday.  I'm sensing a "problem" here!!

I'm so happy with the binding I picked for this quilt.  It's called Darts Nior and is from the Minimalista collection.  I think it is the prefect finishing touch.  In the picture above you can see I added a little accent of 3 inch squares to the back of the quilt to help break up the busy pattern....and to hide the seam (shhhh!  Don't tell anyone!  I need someone to teach my how to match up the pattern when seaming....anyone?  anyone??  I'd love a tutorial!).

I did the actual quilting on this one much less dense then I did in my last quilt.  And, I choose a thread that matched very closely.  I'm still experimenting with what I like best and I think if I had to do over again I'd pick a thread that would really pop instead but I sort of like the tone on tone look for this quilt and how it lets the fabric pop instead of taking over.

The large squares got a heart balloon detail in them (which you can see surprisingly well in the above picture) and the smaller squares got a curly flower and leaf (see below).  This type of quilting was much harder than the free motion loops I did in my Pink Raccoons quilt so I was definitely tackling something new when I tried my  hand at an actual design.  The light colored thread helped to hide my mistakes which calmed my nerves while I was working on it.  But, after doing a few of them you sort of get into the groove and they go pretty fast!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A video tour! (Basement Remodel)

You know what?  They say that pictures say a thousand words, but I think a video (with my random narration) tells a better story.

After yesterday's post showing the progress in the basement I figured it might be sort of fun to do a video tour for you all.  Plus, it helps to really show how the rooms/spaces flow.  Don't mind the umm's and uhh's in the video or the fact that I didn't think to turn all the lights on before the video.  It's amateur, and I'm ok with that.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Big progress on our basement remodel

Did you know that my second most viewed post was the tour of our new house (236 views)?  Second only to my post that we were expecting Abby (248 views).  Newborn pictures and other house updates follow pretty closely behind and my late summer garden roundup post wasn't far behind.  Anyways, what that tells me is that ya'll enjoy following along as we update the house and make it our own.  This winter (well, we started in late November of 2013) we tackled one of the largest projects we have planned; the basement. 

We've made TONS of progress and I've been holding out on you all with the update posts because for a long, long, long time it didn't really LOOK like anything was happening.  Studs seem to go up pretty quick but after that there's a  lot of little behind the scenes work that happens that doesn't look like much.  Like electric, trenching up the pipes to install a bathroom, insulation, framing out duct work, installing a second electric box, moving support posts and a whole host of small tasks that I probably don't even remember right now. 

The before pictures are hard to match up to the afters since we reworked a bunch of walls and the layout is pretty different, but here goes nothing!! For a reference, in the top middle of the picture you'll see the landing for the steps that come down in the middle of the room.  In the before pictures you could turn either left (pictured here, imagine standing on those steps in the top middle) or to the right and your view would be the next picture.  In the afters' we closed off the wall to the right to make a bedroom, meaning you can only come down the stairs and go left.  Phew!  Lost yet?  I hope not!

This view is now closed off, but you'll recognize the closet on the left and the water heater area in the back in the after pictures.  The white wall to the right was opened up and now includes the entrance to the laundry room and bathroom.

This old office area was reconfigured into the bathroom and laundry rooms.

And this huge storage area is now our office.  I was REALLY sad to lose this space, but I think it was worth you.  You decide for yourself!  Here are the afters!

*Well, hold on.  A few things before we get to the good stuff.  Though many of the areas are pretty much finished, anyone that has ever worked on a remodel will tell you that there is a huge difference between done, and DONE done.  I'm ready to start sharing some of our progress with you (it's been killing me!) but, we've still got a lot to do before we call this project DONE done.  I'll be pointing out those as we go along. 

*Also, excuse the blurry pictures.  Something was up with my camera and the lighting when I took them and I was too tired to redo them all once I noticed.

Here's the new view when you come down the stairs (you can see them to the far left).  The tile area with the saw on it will be our bar (TBD - to be built).  The futon in the back won't be living there for long and to the left of the futon will be a wood burning stove.  Like most basements it's cool downstairs and we're hoping to supplement our propane heat with this wood burning stove through the winter months.  You can see our new TV built into the wall and the speakers next to and above it.  They will be covered eventually and painted to disappear in the wall.  The TV will get framed out with trim to finish it off.  

Here's a better shot of the bar area and to the far right you can just make out the door to the outside.  The small unfinished area in the back corner is one of our sump pumps.  That area will be covered with a door and house some of our beer glasses/bar stuff.  The tile in the bar area and under the wood burning stove are the wood grain tiles.  They look great in real life!  I can't wait to clean them up and show them off.

Well, I guess you can see the wood grain tiles a little better in this shot.  This is taken from the far back corner with my back against the door to the outside.  The red posts will eventually get boxed out to more substantial squares and painted white.  There used to be another post to the far right and we moved the one you can see back about 2 feet.  We'd originally hoped to remove both posts completely but our architect said the cost to remove it was astronomically high so we compromised by moving it back a bit and just taking the one out.   Just past the post you can barely catch a glimpse of our new office space.  We'll get to that in a minute 

*A "pre-carpet" picture but I wanted to toss it in so you could see the last minute addition we made the night before the carpet came.  We had to leave our mark for whoever comes after us :O)

Don't you love my beautiful styling before I took these pictures.  You know, nothing like a dusty counter, a mash-up of random junk, a lone Miller Lite can and the tips of an antler mount behind the far chair to say "welcome to our basement tour!".

Aside from the mess, this is our office space.  Ryan's desk area is in the back and mine is right there in the front.  There's some great storage along the wall.  This space is going to be very well used.  Ryan was so sweet to give me a space in the office for my quilting.  We installed the higher counters along the wall for cutting fabric and eventually Ryan is going to modify my desk area so my sewing machine will sit level in the counter, making sewing larger projects a lot easier.  There will be tons of other customization in this room going forward but I'll save the rest for another post. 

Just the right of Ryan's desk sits this small closet.  When the door is closed this pile of wires is completely hidden.  This small closet holds all of the stuff to run the TV/stereo/DVD etc.  It's all done using a wireless signal from the living room into the closet and it is probably one of the coolest things we did in the basement.  Ryan's really proud of this pile of wires.  Don't worry, we'll be rearranging in here and making the space more usable....but you guys don't really care about that.

The door to the office sits just to the right in this picture, and this little pink nook is the bottom of the stairs that come down into the middle of the room.  I just realized I didn't get a single picture of the wall to the left here (with the toys against it).  Eventually that wall will house a custom built-in bookcase to hold toys/DVD's and books.  The little pink area is a special hidey hole space for Abby.  Our thought is that the built-in bookcase will extend around this corner and house a secret door to get into this small play place.  You can see that we even included a light at kid height in there.  We'll see how that spot evolves.  We've not ironed it all out just yet.  Just past Abby's pink hideout you see the door that goes into our new guest bedroom.  The door all the way at the end of the hallway goes to our utility room and the bathroom/laundry sit on the right side of the hallway.

A quick backwards glance into Abby's hiding spot.  It's tiny, but so is she!

Onto the guest room.  You'll recognize the closet I pointed out from the before pictures.  This room is a little bit longer than it is wide but we wanted to put the guest room in here because it had the second set of windows.  Since we've got a walkout basement, these windows look out at ground level which is really nice for a basement bedroom.  You can see we kept the old wall of paneling but painted it white to hide the ugly :O) It will eventually be capped with a nice finished piece of dark wood to finish it off.

This pic is of the guest room pretty much standing in that closet in the corner.  The large dresser in the top right is covering the new wall we added.  Remember, just past this wall is the staircase, and you used to be able to walk into this area from right behind that dresser.

Just outside the door to the bedroom and across the hall you enter into our new bathroom.  Remember, the basement wasn't plumbed for a bathroom and laundry so this all had to be dug out to run the plumbing.  Of course we still need to figure out a mirror and clean up the junk in the corner, but this bathroom and the laundry room are the closest to "done' in the whole basement.  

Just past the pile of junk and to the left is the shower.  It's nothing special, just a walk-in surround but it's new, white, and beautiful.  Ryan even showered down there once to try it out.  As you back out of the bathroom and keep heading down the hallway, you'll hit the laundry room.

The very last room at the end of hall is the laundry room.  When we first moved into the house the dryer was located in the garage (that the old owners were strangely converting to a living room addition.  Why in the world you'd choose to loose your garage to a living room instead of finishing the basement is a mystery to me....but I'm not here to judge).  The washer was located in the entry off the garage that we changed into a mudroom soon after moving in.  Anyways, back to the laundry room.  It's noting too crazy, but it's pretty big.  We plan to hang a few clothes lines in the room to air dry clothes in the winter and I'll be using the large blank wall to the right for quilting (more on that later). 

Inside the room and looking towards the washer you can see we added a utility sink (great for cleaning paint brushes and crafting).  We added a few cabinets for storage of cleaning supplies and other things just to round out the room.

This room is painted a pretty yellow color (Ryan hates it....but I can count on one hand the number of times he's done laundry so I won this battle).  Oh, and my seeds.  It's nearly time to start seeding the cool weather stuff like lettuce, spinach and beans so I had to get those little guys started ASAP. 

Phew!   Are you sick of the tour yet?? Don't worry, this is the final space.  This unfinished area lies all the way at the end of the hallway.  When I lost the huge storage area in the remodel (scroll up to the before pictures if you forgot), we had to get creative.  We added wire shelving back here at the end of the hallway(behind the furnace and water heater - you can just barely see them on the right hand side of this picture) and are storing all of our holiday decorations and camping supplies back here.  Ignore the dusk ON EVERY SURFACE!!  I've been fighting it for months and I think we are FINALLY past it now that the carpet is down.  Thank the lord on high!

Ok, so that's the update on the basement remodel.  We've got a TON done but we've still got a ways to go.  Now that spring is here we're likely turning our attention to outside projects for awhile but we plan to tick away at the smaller things we've got left when we have time.  I'm exhausted just typing it all up!

Stick around, after taking all these pictures I decided to shoot a little video of it to give you a better idea of who it all flows together.  I'll be posting it for you in a day or so.