Giveaway Winners!


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Winner of At Home with Modern June is Veronica, who said:

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I’m excited to see how many of you are looking to do more sewing with oilcloth!  Be sure to check out Kelly’s shop for more supplies and her first book!


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Winner of My Rag Doll is Evelyn, who said:

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Both winners have been emailed.  Thanks to everyone who commented, and have fun sewing!

Tannic Acid Molecular Quilt + Quilt Lab Blog Hop

molecular quilt tannic acid

Once upon a time, before Whipstitch existed, I was an archaeologist.  My field of study was prehistoric human/plant interactions, focusing on acorn use as a primary foodstuff in the American Southeast.  (This is a true story, y’all.  Some folks really do study this kind of thing.)

You can imagine what spending two years grinding acorns that you collected by hand in a mortar and pestle and weighing the resulting acorn meal to compare with other batches does to a person. I pretty much had two choices: despise acorns and shudder at the sight of them, or become hopelessly enamored of the little guys and everything they represent.

I chose the latter.  I, my friends, am an Acorn Lover.

I have acorn quilts and acorn decor and acorn earrings.  I have a squirrel-and-acorn skirt and acorn serving platters.  I looooove me some acorns.

So when Ali contacted me about her new book, Quilt Lab, and I saw that there was a quilt of a molecule, only one molecule sprang to mind for me: tannic acid.

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Tannic acid is the primary chemical constituent in acorns, the part that preserves them underground over the winter and allows them to sprout again when spring comes around.  Tannic acid is so prevalent in some species of acorn that they were the original source of tanning solution for the leather industry (get it? TANNIC acid?).  Acorns have been consumed as a food by every civilization on every continent on Earth, throughout history.  Plus, they’re cute as a little button, which is a bonus.

molecular quilt from quilt lab

Ali’s Molecular Quilt, from Quilt Lab, takes the love of chemistry to geeky, quilty heights–I totally am feeling it.  She worked with both a large hexagon and a large pentagon to piece together the molecular structure of caffeine.  Since I am not a caffeine drinker, I wanted to branch out and try a molecule closer to my own heart (although I recognize that for most folks, caffeine would be exactly the molecular quilt they’d be most likely to appreciate!).

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The whole book is like that.  Ali has taken ideas and motifs and quilt structures that are familiar to us and used her background in math and science to present those quilt ideas in a really new and cool way.  I loved the concept of this book from before I even saw the projects–and once I saw the projects, I knew I had to sew some of them up.

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Her version of molecular is on a dark blue background with pops of pink, but what I love most about it is that it’s also chemically accurate: her instructions walk you through using different colors of fabric to represent single bonds, double bonds, and individual elements across the molecule.  I wasn’t making the same chemical structure, but her instructions were so careful and well-written that I was able to use her fundamental ideas to translate the design into a different molecular structure:

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This is tannic acid.  Now, this is obviously a larger molecule than caffeine. I had originally intended to create the entire molecule, but my starting pieces–the triangles at the heart of each hexagonal group–were so big that the finished quilt would have been a double-king sized quilt, which is too big even for me.  Go big or go home, and all, but I want to actually USE this quilt.  So I stuck with creating just one functional group, the hydroxy group that appears four times in this molecule, as a simplified representation of tannic acid.

tannic acid quilt

The body of the molecule is all Denyse Schmidt prints.  I used a bright pink  for double bonds, a blue medallion print for single bonds, and an aqua and an orange for the OH and O groups.  The background is Quilter’s Linen from Robert Kaufman, in my signature chartreuse.

tannic acid molecule quilt triangle pints

Each of the segments of the hexagon at the heart of the molecule are pieced as triangles, and then brought together.  I think it’s crazy clever the way Ali has worked that out in this design, and how she even took the time to plan out the “spokes” coming off the hexagon, pieceing them at half the width so they’d appear to be shared across the angle of the hex:

OH group on tannic acid molecule

The measuring was simple and consistent, and the results were so worth it.  Plus, because this wasn’t just a shape but reflected something concrete from nature, the patchwork was immensely satisfying.

hanging quilt

Here you can get a better idea of where all those seams lie.  For the vast majority of the quilt top, I pressed my seam allowances open, particularly at the seams where the triangles meet.  I find that the center point of that hexagon lie much, much flatter when those seams are pressed open–another tip in Ali’s directions for this quilt.

hydroxy group

I’m still just the tiniest bit sad that this isn’t the entire molecule, but since this quilt top clocks in at around 50″ x 65″ I am totally letting myself off the hook.  It might be fun to make a mini with the entire structure on it, though!

I’ll be quilting this with narrow straight line stitches across the width of the quilt–can’t wait to share the finished result with you!

In the meantime, check out the other stops on Ali’s Quilt Lab blog tour–I think you’ll be really impressed not just with the quilt designs themselves, but the way Ali has really showed her teacher’s heart in the structuring of the book, the design of each project to build on the ones previous, and the categories she has used to reveal how the natural world can influence and guide our patchwork.  I genuinely think it’s a dreamy quilting book, and one to add to your collection!


March 11 – Head over to Andrea’s blog (Knitty Bitties) for her take on Fractal
March 18 - Bonnie (Pink Stitches) is mixing up Scattered
March 24-31 – Link Party on Ali’s blog

April 8 - Megan at Canoe Ridge Creations will be modifying on States of Matter
April 15 - Amy Lou Who knows her Calculus (does anyone remember 2Gether?)
April 22 - Deborah from Whipstitch has an awesome new molecule to show you for Molecular

May 6 - Katy from I’m a Ginger Monkey gives us some Culture(d)May 13 – Lindsay (lindsay lindsay) from Lindsay Sews has an Echo
May 20 – Amanda from A Crafty Fox (and Westwood Acres) will make you shudder with a cool version of Aperture Science
May 27 – Angela Cut To Pieces and I teamed up for a joint free pattern!!

Acorn image via Wikipedia.  Tannic acid chemical structure via.

Shorts Season

Over the past week+ or so, I have sewn up a gazillion pair of shorts for the children.

kids shorts summer 2014

They all seem to have shot up four inches in the space of time it took for us to have a week or warm weather followed by a cold snap.

yellow playground shorts

These are a mix of patterns–a lot are Dana’s KIDshorts pattern, which I love, and others are my own Perfect Pants pattern from the Sewing Clothes for Kids e-course.

jumping shorts

They are almost universally flat front with an elastic waist back, which is my preferred look on children.  Generally, if I’m going to do an all-elastic waist for the girls, I just make a quick skirt.  And cute shorts for boys tend to be easier to find at the thrift store, so I don’t feel pressure to provide our son with a mountain of variety in that regard.

girl in shorts

I’ve thought a lot about shorts length while I was sewing these.  I love a good board short on a boy, and Dana’s boy lengths really achieve the look of a young boy who isn’t being baby-fied (not a word, but you get me).  It seems like a goofy thing to focus on, but length is kind of a huge deal, and length on boys can be problematic: he wants to look like a Big Boy, but he’s not really THAT big, and how do I honor his desire to BE big while still giving him space to be little a while longer?  I don’t want him to look like a tiny adult, because he’s not, but I do want to respect that he’s a tiny person, who has his own opinions and desires, and clothes give me a chance to do that.

boy in shorts hiding bunny

The length on girls can be tricky, too.  Our schools have minimum length requirements (nothing shorter than the tops of the knee caps), but summer is hot, hot, hot here, so I want to balance the needs of their school with the needs of their internal temperature regulators.

crumpled shorts

This is one of the many things I love about sewing.  That whole inner conversation you can have as you’re sewing something and step back to look at the finished product and ask, “What is it about this that I don’t completely love?  Where is there something to tweak?  What does it say about my ideals and values and tastes and desires that I want to change that one thing?”  I think sewing can be both smaller and bigger than we make it, you know?  That on the one hand, it’s just sewing, and it can be simple and unencumbered and rewarding without being too fraught with deep meaning.  And on the other hand, it can change the world, because each time I have a finished project to admire and enjoy, it absolutely changes me.

shorts fabrics

That is the sweetest part of life.  Any of it, all of it, is always both things: big and small, weighty and light, bitter and sweet.  What a treat that I can sit down and make something as simple and utilitarian as a pair of shorts, and it can offer me a moment to reflect.

kids shorts

And then a chance to take all these tiny people outside into the sunshine to forget deep thoughts and play.

playful baby

Dollar Store Academy

There are days where it would be so, so, so much easier to let the kids come home from school, turn on the TV, and let it roll.  We try pretty hard at our house, though, to limit TV watching–or game playing or Netflix or movies or videos–to days that aren’t “school days.”  Which is an ancient way of saying we don’t watch TV on nights when there is school the next day.

How many studies have been done to date indicating that children AVERAGE something like 35 hours of TV watching per week?  That’s, like, four hours A DAY in front of the tube, IN ADDITION to laptops and tablets and iPhones and video games.  IN ADDITION???  For real??

I could go on and on about how “back in my day” we didn’t do that kind of thing, but you’ve heard it before.  If you have kids born after 2005, you’ve DONE it before.  You lived it, right along with me.  Back when there were no smart phones and no iPads and no cable, for crying out loud.  I don’t think it’s reasonable to pretend that we’re going to go back to that kind of lifestyle, because it’s never going to happen.

I know some parents have been very successful with the “tickets” method of controlling screen time: their kids earn a particular number of minutes of the privilege for each task or chore they accomplish.  On the surface, it seems like this really great idea, right?  They have to earn it, and when it’s used up, that’s that.  They’re being taught personal responsibility and limited resources and budgeting, all those things.

Here’s what I think: as much as that system appeals to me on the surface, it’s still presenting television and computers and the internet as a reward.  And I don’t want my kids to see it that way–I want my kids to think of technology as a tool, not a treat.  And allowing them to “earn” the privilege to engage with media in that way seems to perpetuate the idea that they ought to have that treat, want to have that treat, need to have that treat, that things are better with the treat.  It’s the same idea as when my college professor criticized the Pizza Hut plan to reward kids’ reading with free pizza: he claimed all you’d end up with was fat kids who hated to read.  And he was right.

Instead, we’re trying a new tactic at our house.  It’s HARD, let’s just say that outright.  It’s HARD ON ME.  But it’s simple and it doesn’t require any oversight, which puts it over a ticketing method that would put the onus on me to keep track of who had done what task for what “minutes” value and when their minutes were used up, and then policing their redemption of those minutes.  Gak.  Like I need one more administrative task in my day.

Here’s our new approach: I say no.  And then, like Isak Dinesen, just when I think I can’t go ONE MINUTE MORE, I take a breath, and I know that I can bear anything.

The children come home, and the house is a mess, and I have a deadline to meet, and dinner to cook, and everyone wants a snack and to watch a video or Netflix or play on the computer.  And we have a big TV that streams the internet and an iPad just for the kids and a laptop in the kitchen and my smart phone that they know all-too-well how to operate.  And it would be so EASY to just plug them in and go in the other room and take a breath and a break and let it slide.

So I don’t.

I say no.

And it’s HARD.  Did I mention how hard it is?  Like, SUPER hard.  They whine and they complain and they want explanations.  And while they’re used to the idea that we “don’t watch TV on school nights,” there have been exceptions.  There are always exceptions.  And so they’re hoping for another exception.

I don’t like to disappoint them.  And let’s be honest: a lot of days, there are three of them and one of me and it’s only 2:30 in the afternoon and I’m TIRED and I just don’t know if I want to fight it out.  I want to give in.  But every time I don’t give in, every time I say “no” and stick to it, I am overwhelmed with how grateful I am that I did.

Like yesterday:

dollar store coloring books for homeschooling

They did the spiel.  They whined and complained and two of them had to be sent to their rooms for pushing.  Even playing outside they couldn’t seem to get along, and there was constant bickering.  Nothing SO bad, not really miscreant behavior, just tired kids who are still recovering from those four days at Gramma’s, who need more sleep and some peaceful time at home.

I wanted to turn on the TV.  It would have been easy to turn on the TV.  And instead, I got out some coloring books.

dollar store fill in the blanks activity book

Yep.  Coloring books.  From the dollar store.  The DOLLAR STORE.  I bought them on a whim when I was picking up paper goods for the spring parties in their classes.  One for each of them, chosen for their interests.  I placed them on the table–like a treat, like a reward.  And they gasped with excitement.

dollar store dinosaurs

Y’all, they GASPED.

selfdirected learning with dollar store coloring activity books

And for the next NINETY MINUTES, they worked and shared and read and colored and played with one another.  Heck, they were so great that I brought in my hand-sewing and sat next to them, answering questions and exclaiming over how great their work was.  The little one wasn’t feeling the coloring, but the mood in the room was so peaceful and cooperative and loving that she brought out her Inchimals and started playing with those, all on her own, doing MATH PROBLEMS.

learning math with inchimals

I know.  It sounds like a fairy tale.

My point is this: I want our parenting choices to reflect not what we’re FEELING but what we’re HOPING.  My husband and I aim to make decisions based on the kind of people we hope our children will grow to be–how they will view the world and the degree to which they can interact with it open-heartedly in the far-off future when they are grown adults and we are just a bi-weekly phone call.  And they won’t grow into loving, caring, patient, kind, generous, joyful, faithful people with self-control and the ability to delay gratification if WE can’t do that, will they?  No, they won’t.

And so we say no.  BECAUSE it’s hard.  Because by saying no to them–about something small, like television, or something large, like television–we are asking them to do and be MORE.  More than what’s easy, more than what someone else has chosen to show to them through a screen, more than an unfiltered look through the glass.  They are being asked to be small a little longer, and to dream big a little longer, and to use that box to make a spaceship a little longer.  They are falling in love with connect-the-dots and with spot-the-differences and with using all the colors in the box, just a little longer.  And maybe, if we’re right about our beliefs in our own influence, when they are grown and no longer under our roof, they will not look at the internet or the television as a treat and a reward, but instead see it as a tool–a tool that can lead them to explore bigger worlds and love in small doses, the kind of love that keeps each of us going day to day, when it feels like we just can’t bear any more.

My Rag Doll + GIVEAWAY

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I have been, since two Christmases ago, somewhat obsessed with doll clothing.  I spent an entire holiday season bringing together an awesome collection of hand-made vintage Barbie clothing via eBay for our seven-year-old as her Christmas gift, and the following year (this past Christmas), she received an American Girl doll.  Between the two, I spend more time than I’m likely to admit thinking about doll clothing–how to make it, how to make it so SMALL, and what wardrobe staples the various dolls might require for their busy schedules.

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So when I was asked to be part of the My Rag Doll blog hop, I was pretty excited.  I generally avoid doing too many giveaways here on the blog, and I legitimately want to ensure that every book or product that I review is something I really like and think is well-made and worth investing in; since I had already agreed to do two other book reviews this spring, you KNOW this book has to be pretty great for me to have added it to the list.  And it so totally is.

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The author, Corinne Crasbercu, is an accomplished fashion and costume designer who also works as a stylist for Marie Claire magazine.  She has a keen eye and a very clean style, which I love.  The whole book feels very European–sweet and innocent, but also sophisticated and chic.  These are the type of dolls I remember growing up with–I was born in Germany and lived there until my fourth birthday, and my earliest memories (like my Kindergarten doll) are of beautifully crafted toys, handmade with care and love.  These dolls are those toys, all dressed up for our own children.

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The book includes patterns for the doll, with instructions for making a blonde, brunette or a red-head (I think we can all guess which one is my favorite–ginger FTW!), along with all the sweet outfits to dress them in.  And oh!  Are they dear!

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Gah!!  Can you STAND it???  Totally precious–without being too twee, you know?  These are cutesy-gooey dolls, these are sweet and classic dolls, and their outfits are perfect for re-telling old tales or making up fresh new ones.  I suspect they would even be awesome for puppet theater.  My kids would be ALL OVER that.

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As the owner of quite a large selection of sewing books, I can honestly say that I can see this one becoming a title I’d take off the shelf over and over, and use again and again: my girls are of the perfect age for making a zillion variations on these sweet patterns, and my oldest is likely to have children of her own before our littles truly outgrow their doll years (the oldest and youngest are 15 years apart, after all–though the thought of having children at home and being a granny at the same time makes me want to think about something else super badly).  I could easily riff on these designs for another 15 years, and never exhaust the possibilities.

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And you, sweet people, have the opportunity to win a copy!  Simply leave a comment here before midnight on April 23, 2014 and you could win a copy of My Rag Doll.  The patterns are clean and clear and easy to use, and the designs are so classic and lovely.  I know you’ll tab and mark and wear out the pages sewing with it.  Winner will be chosen at random from all the comments left by the time the giveaway closes.

Follow More of the Blog Hop!

For other stops on the blog tour, along with more details from the book and more chances to win a copy, check out these lovely blogs:
Sun 13th– Kestrel Makes
Mon 14th – Dolls and Daydreams
Tue 15th – Follow the White Bunny
Wed 16th – Whipstitch
Thu 17th – A Spoonful of Sugar
Fri 18th – Feeling Stitchy
Sat 19th – House of Pinheiro
Sun 20th – A Stitching Odyssey
Mon 21st – iCandy Handmade
Tue 22nd – Shimelle
Wed 23rd – Heather Bailey
Thu 24th – Emma Lamb