Thursday, April 28, 2016

Really Random Thursday, 4/28/16

I got a new phone. Which required a new case. Thanks to Shutterfly...
Mark and I were having supper the other night on the porch of the storage shed Periwinkle Cottage, when I noticed a plastic egg left over from the Easter Egg hunt. We decided M&Ms were safe to eat, even though they had been outside for nearly a month. You'd do the same thing, right?
Is there a person or group on your bucket list to hear live in concert? Mine has always been James Taylor. He's coming to town in July and we have tickets!
This is what happens when you slip off some low baseball bleachers--a black eye. He corrected me and said it wasn't black, it was red and purple. And by now it is green and yellow.

But those eyelashes...!
As you read this, I am probably on my way to my friend's cabin just outside of Yosemite, for our annual quilting retreat. I made this as a thank-you gift for her. Perfect, right?
Charlotte spent a little time on the sewing machine this week too.
As she reminds me frequently, she is passionate about pandas, and made a little pillow.
I'm taking an online photography class and snapped these the other day.

You see the baseball hat she's wearing? Yeah, her daddy loves the Dodgers. So he laughed when I showed him this.
And because it's always wise to be prepared...

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tell Me a Story with Intentional Piecing

My good friend, Amy, has written a book and I'm so excited about this one. She is such a great designer and I have many of her patterns. Paper piecing is one of her specialties, and she has designed many beautiful blocks and quilts.
If you are on Instagram, you might have already seen some of these Tell Me a Story blocks popping up here and there.

These blocks are all about making intentional and coordinating fabric choices to tell individual stories, and are ideal for doing a little fussy cutting to help share the story.

The idea behind these blocks came at just the right time for me.
Our son and daughter-in-law went through a nearly two-year-long process to adopt this precious little girl, Ella Jane, who is now nearly 2 1/2. As I thought about what kind of quilt I wanted to make for her, I decided the Books for Baby blocks by Ayumi, from her book Patchwork Please!, would be perfect. I'm in two bees, and my bee mates all made the cutest book blocks for the front.

I just completed 12 Tell Me a Story blocks which will be pieced into the backing of the quilt. The blocks are about me, the Grandma who loves Ella so very much. They each give a little glimpse into things that I like, things that I want her to know about me.
Favorite foods: Pizza and Mexican food.
Favorite beverage: Coffee (also wine--but that's probably information I can tell her later on....)
I love books.
I play the piano (and even found a little piano player with red hair, just like me).
I love knitting and quilting.
I love color, and my current favorite is orange.
Disneyland is one of my favorite places to go.
I love rainy days, snail mail, clocks of any kind, and would wear blue jeans every day, along with anything black and white.

These are quick and fun blocks to make, and are perfect for dipping your toes into paper piecing if it has intimidated you to this point.

Ready to give them a try? You can get a 30% discount off the book from the Lucky Spool web site ( using the discount code “FRIEND30”. The book is also available in Amy's Etsy shop and Amazon.

So make some blocks and post them to Instagram using the hashtags:  #intentionalpiecingbook and #TellMeAStoryQuilt.  

For each block you post, you get a chance at a prize. Two lucky winners will receive this bundle, provided by Sew Me A Song. This fat sixteenths bundle is available and was selected for this project and is full of fussy cutting prints. If you buy the bundle and then happen to win, your purchase price will be refunded. The drawing will be held on June 1.

Join in the fun and share your story!

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Name Game: {Quilt} While You're Ahead

I have been following Monica's blog for years. While the name of her blog was the first thing to catch my attention, it was her writing style that keeps me reading. Monica has that rare ability to paint a picture with just a few words. I have probably told her many times at least once that if I could switch places with another writer, it would be her.
Not only that, but she lives in England and vacations in all the places I dream about. She is originally from Italy, is an avid reader, and reads a lot of her books in Italian! Okay, enough gushing. For now...

How did you choose the name for your blog? 

I discovered the world of blogs when I was searching the net for patterns for modern quilts... I had two small babies and sewing was my escape.  I literally stumbled into this community of like-minded people and was overjoyed!  I wasn't alone! I wasn't a freak! Stroking fabric was not something to do in secret anymore!!  Anyway, moving on swiftly, I can't quite remember the moment I decided to start a blog, it kind of happened... I'm pretty sure my husband came up with the name.  He's good like that!

Were there other names you considered, and can you share any of them with us? 

I had the more pretentious name of "life for a while"... I'm glad I didn't go with that!!

Now that you are known by Quilt While You're Ahead, are you happy with it, or do you wish you could change it to something else? 

I am still happy with it but I kind of wish it was shorter... try typing it in a hurry!! it's a finger twister... and also I tend to write about lots of other things not just quilting and so it's slowly moved to a "while you're ahead" more than anything.

Which is quite hysterical because anyone that knows me knows that 'ahead'... is not readily applicable to me!!  I normally scramble behind everybody else trailing destructions and dropping things left right and centre...

But hey... one can always hope!

I recommend that you go through Monica's blog archives. Pick a topic, any topic. And then just enjoy scrolling through the beautiful pictures (did I mention she is also a fabulous photographer?) and savor her writing. (You might be able to tell that I'm a serious fan girl). And follow her in Instagram too (@quiltwhileyoureahead). You'll thank me for time well spent. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Really Random Thursday, 4/21/16: Let There Be Light

A few months ago, I saw this picture on Instagram (@best_upcycler). I like unique lamps, and found the quirkiness of this one especially appealing. (Note: You can find this lamp and lots of other very cool bike-related items on Etsy at Bespoke Spokes.)

My brother-in-law, Leon, has done a lot of cycling over the years. Beyond that, he is an expert at making things, or at the very least "modifying" existing things. He worked for years at the Science Museum of Minnesota (which I highly recommend if you are ever in the Twin Cities area, by the way), making sure all the exhibits were properly installed and working.

So I sent him this picture.

And look what arrived at our doorstep the other day!
Here is the coolest part. He enclosed a 6-page summary of how he made this lamp. Some of the really interesting things I learned:

Because of its complex nature, and the fact that he is now retired from the Museum, he didn't have all the necessary tools. And "Every step of this construction has been a problem that needed solving with an execution plan."  When I sent him the picture, I had no idea, and no expectation, that he would end up having to purchase tools! Fortunately they were tools that he had been talking about purchasing anyway. So in a way, I was being helpful, right??

The base of the lamp was a free wheel from Leon's cross bike that he bought 40 years ago. It was used for 30 years and then stored for future use. It was very rusty from winter biking (yes, he biked to and from the museum in below-zero weather!) and he had to do some heavy-duty work to get it looking good again. And those are sewing machine base cushions for table-top protection. Nice touch...
He bought a vintage bike lamp at a used bike shop, and then ordered a bulb off the internet which is used for track lighting. "I used a perforated aluminum plate to mount the halogen lamp into the lamp housing. This was for heat dissipation....To get this new lamp assembly into the vintage lamp took some modifications..." (NOTE: Mark and I often think "modification" should be Leon's middle name because he is such an expert at modifying and coming up with solutions.)

 This quick release bike wheel skewer feature allows the lamp angle to be adjusted...And there is an on-off switch that is on the base as well.
There are so many more details about how he made the lamp, where he sourced the parts, how he put everything together, etc., but Leon closed the summary by saying, "A finished product. I had more problems writing about what I did than making it."

Again, here is the picture of the lamp in its new environment.

I love all the time and thought that went into this. That means the very most to me. Thank you, Leon.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Name Game: Twiggy&Opal

I think I "met" Jayne Willis of Twiggy&Opal on Instagram. And since then I have been amazed over and over by her work. She loves working with solids. Just like me. But she also does a lot of beautiful improv designing. Which is one of the reasons I love looking at what she creates--improv does not come easily to my symmetry-loving brain. I would enjoy watching her process in person. I sure hope we can meet for real someday.
How did you choose your name?
Honestly, choosing a name was the hardest part!  It all began with Etsy.  Encouraged to start a shop by my daughter, I agonized over a name.  Eventually I decided to go with my heart, pick a name that was personal and had meaning.  
When I started my blog, I considered picking an entirely different name.  In the end I thought it was best to tie the blog to the shop.  After all...I wasn’t even sure I could keep a blog going let alone write a post! 
(Go here to read more about this Confetti quilt. Seriously. You will want to see more pictures. We'll wait....)
It was always a huge deal to visit my Grama Opal in Minnesota.  Because of the distance we had to travel it always felt like an epic event once we arrived.  She was a tough old gal, full of vim & vigor (I guess Minnesota winters will do that)!  It never failed that sometime during our visit she would say to me, “Jayne, you're thin as a twig’!  A memory that has always stayed with me.  
As a tribute to her, Twiggy & Opal was born.  She lived to the ripe old age of 99 and is missed dearly.
Were there other names you considered, and can you share them with us?
Oh lord yes!  I’m sure ‘Sew, Designs, Fabric, Quilts, Modern’ were in many of them!  Can I remember them?  I think they are probably best forgotten!  Think of every sewing/quilting related cliche and it was considered in one form or another!
 Now that you are recognized by Twiggy&Opal, are you happy with it, or do you  wish you could change it to something else?
At this point, I wouldn’t change it for anything!  I feel like I have established me, my blog, my shop and my name.  And every time I see Twiggy & Opal, I think of my Grama!
These are the latest beauties from Jayne's blog and I had to include them. They are just so beautiful. 

I highly recommend you follow Jayne on her blog and on Instagram (@twiggyandopal), and check out her Etsy shop as well.