breaking radio silence

sorry i haven’t been posting much lately. pretty much all i’ve been doing lately is sleeping, reading about miscarriages online, & trying to pull the house into some kind of condition for moving. we move a week from tomorrow. i feel like i shouldn’t complain about the timing because, you know, it could be worse. what if i had the miscarriage DURING the move? that would be awful. or if it happened right after we moved, so then the new house was tainted by this completely shitty thing that happened there as soon as we moved in.

but so much of what i need emotionally is to just rest & feel like i have some oasis of calm in my life, even if it’s just during ramona’s naps or whatever. & it’s impossible to feel that way when i live in a tiny house that is crammed floor to ceiling with packed & half-packed boxes. there’s no restful place for me to place my eyes. whenever i try to sleep or lay down to replenish my energy, i start thinking about all the packing that is left to do.

jared has been making some pointed comments about how i haven’t been very helpful with going out to get boxes. i did try once, but the liquor store only had three empty boxes for me. sometimes you get lucky & they have more than will fit in your car, & sometimes they only have a couple. he’s been the main box-getter because he does more driving errands than i do (he does all the grocery shopping, & the grocery store is right next door to the liquor store), & also, you know, i’m having a miscarriage. although it has not been as physically taxing as some experiences friends have shared with me, i am still really tired, & sometimes i am in pain, & i am always, always crushingly sad. i don’t feel as miserable if jared &/or ramona are with me, but when jared is at school & ramona is napping, all i can think about is sad how i feel. feeling this way makes it hard to muster up the energy for even the basics: brushing my teeth, putting on non-pajamas. let alone anything bigger.

i had two blood tests last week, four days & seven day post-methotrexate. my HCG levels are dropping well. they’re going to keep testing me once a week until i’m back to zero, & then they’re going to schedule a colposcopy. that doesn’t really have anything to do with the miscarriage. just more awful medical stuff i have to deal with. if we want to actually try for another baby, we can start in october, as long as my cycle is back by then.

i keep waffling on whether or not i want to try. i tried SO HARD to get pregnant with ramona, & while obviously it worked eventually, it was still crazy-making & i still feel vaguely traumatized by it all. all the charting & timing & pills & tests & anxiety. i don’t want to do that again. i don’t want to turn into that crazy person. that’s part of why this pregnancy was so amazing: it was a complete accident! i didn’t even catch it until i was two & a half months along! out of the woods, i was presumptuous enough to think! but i know that even if we are casual about trying to get pregnant again, i will never be able to feel really relaxed about it because i will always be wondering if i will have another miscarriage.

jared says, let’s just not think about it right now. let’s just focus on the move. & i think, easy for you to say, you’re not the one bleeding & going in for tests. but yes, we are moving, & i am starting to feel a little bit excited about it. it will just be a big relief to start unpacking these boxes & arranging our new space. & i cannot WAIT for jared & me to have our own room! if i want to nap during ramona’s nap, i’ll be able to do it in my very own bed without being scared of waking her up. if jared is watching a baseball game in the evening & i want a quiet space to read, i’ll be able to just go to our room. i’ll be able to hide out while i’m sick without having to switch to the couch when it’s time for ramona to nap or go to bed!

plus, there’s always that weird thrill that comes with moving, the idea that somehow you will be a different, better person in a (hopefully) different, better space. a person who makes her bed every morning as soon as gets up, & never looks around at 4pm to find herself still in ratty pajamas from the night before. a person who dusts her ceiling fan more frequently than once every three years & owns more than one fitted sheet. yes, a lot of my fantasies of my better self are domestic in nature. but you know. maybe i will also magically become a person who goes to europe. somehow. not sure how we’d afford airfare & accommodations for the whole family, but we do all have passports. who knows what the future holds?

miscarriage update: ectopic times

just a li’l miscarriage update: i had to go back to the ER last night. it turns out that it was an ectopic pregnancy after all. as i told jared, “you what this means? we are the 1%! this only happens in 1% of all pregnancies. i’d really prefer to be the rich 1% though, if i have a choice in the matter…”.

i’m fortunate that it miscarried naturally before doing any damage to me or my future reproductive capacity (as far as we know), though of course i am now at much higher risk for ectopics in any future pregnancies. you know, because i didn’t have enough working against me in the whole having babies arena.

i had the ER doctor consult with three different OB practices, hoping one of them would say, “it’s just a miscarriage! no big!” but they all agreed that it was probably ectopic (due to the fact that my uterus was completely empty, not even a gestational sac that would indicate a blighted ovum missed miscarriage), so they gave two shots of methotrexate & then i was free to go. they warned me that i’d probably spend the weekend puking & cramping, but so far i feel pretty much fine. lots of bleeding, & i’m pretty tired (probably from the stress & the blood loss), but i’m doing okay. which is nice, because today is my birthday. it’s bad enough to be having a miscarriage on your 36th birthday, without adding a bunch of puking to the mix.

jared & ramona came to the ER with me last night & ramona cuddled with me in my hospital bed. the ER doctor was totally awesome–far & away the best doctor interaction i have had during this pregnancy. obviously this whole situation sucks, but i am doing surprisingly okay.

trying to see the silver lining in all of this: i can keep sewing garments for myself without worrying about my size changing with pregnancy! between my first prenatal on wednesday & my miscarriage counseling session yesterday, i lost six pounds. i don’t know if it was some kind of weird psychosomatic baby weight or what, but i was definitely starting to look pregnant & now i’m back to my old self. i had cut out some pants to sew before all of this happened, & then i was like, “guess i gotta shelve that project for about the next year.” i had bought a bunch of bra fabric & thought i’d have to postpone that until my pregnancy boobs decided what size they wanted to be. i’d still rather have a baby than some new sewing projects, obviously, but since having a baby is not an option…

hey dudes, i’m having a miscarriage

my news: i was about ten weeks pregnant but am now having a miscarriage. so if this is something that you would find upsetting to read, skip the rest. here we go!

despite being so far along, i just found out i was pregnant last week. i had what i thought was a normal period at the end of may, but when my next period didn’t show up, i started panicking because i thought i was going into early perimenopause. it’s no secret that my hormones are kind of jacked up, which is why we had such a difficult time conceiving ramona. after the various interventions it took to get pregnant with her, the idea of getting pregnant by accident honestly never crossed my mind.

i decided i should take a pregnancy test anyway before i called my doctor in a panic, just to rule it out. imagine my shock when it was positive! i was literally shaking. i do eventually want to have another child, but you know. it’s still kind of a whirlwind of emotions when it happens by accident! i called jared at school, & he was like, “…okay. okay. two kids. okay. let’s do this thing.”

we talked it over & realized that, you know, the timing wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t too terrible either. i was due in early february, just a few months before jared is slated to defend his dissertation. we still have all of ramona’s outgrown baby stuff. all we’d need for a new baby was a crib, a car seat, a stroller that can fit two kids, & a car that can fit two car seats. obviously, these are big-ticket items, but still. not that big a deal.

i called the OB i used when i was pregnant with ramona to schedule a prenatal. she wouldn’t see me without making me take a blood test to “confirm the pregnancy”. i tried to explain that i had to already be eight or nine weeks along, & i had that weird false period bleeding episode, & that i’d prefer to just go straight to an ultrasound to rule out an ectopic pregnancy or a molar pregnancy & make sure everything was okay. she refused, so i switched providers.

i had my first prenatal on wednesday. they confirmed the pregnancy with their own tests & the doctor said he would order an ultrasound to confirm dates. i asked if i should be worried about the bleeding episode & he said, “you haven’t had any bleeding since then?” “no,” i said. “no cramps?” “no,” i said. “then we can rest assured that there’s nothing going on that is a threat…to you.” i did not love how cavalier he was about the health of the fetus, but i decided i’d just switch to a different provider within the practice. we couldn’t do an ultrasound at that appointment because the tech was out for the day. i was very disappointed by this, but relieved that i finally had the prenatal process underway, already being nearly ten weeks pregnant.

the next day i had a tiny bit of spotting but chalked it up to having had a pap done the day before. then the spotting got heavier & bright red. i figured it was probably just because of the pap, because the cervix is so vascular & delicate during pregnancy. but still. i got tired of waiting for the OB’s office to call me back, so i had jared come home from school so i could go to the ER & get looked over. i expected them to confirm everything & tell me i was just over-reacting to normal spotting & to send me packing.

but when the ultrasound tech was very serious & taciturn & asked me a lot of questions like, “who told you you were pregnant?” i started to get very worried.

finally the doctor came in & told me my HGC level was only 1800. it should have been MUCH higher for as far along as i was. the sonogram showed a thickened endometrial lining but no gestational sac & certainly no ten-week-old fetus. & meanwhile, the bleeding was getting heavier & heavier.

they gave me IV fluids to help with some of the blood loss & a rhogam shot, since my blood type is negative. the doctor was trying to convince me that maybe i am pregnant–maybe only three weeks or something! but unless it’s an immaculate conception, that’s just not a possibility. i know when i had sex & when i didn’t, & i knew i had to be at least ten weeks along.

so who knows what happened? maybe that weird bleeding episode at the end of may was my body’s attempt to start an early miscarriage & it didn’t work & my body kept acting like it was pregnant for another six weeks. the only silver lining is that i don’t have to worry about passing a ten-week-old fetus. but this still really sucks & i feel pretty shitty physically & i have to go into the doctor’s office again today for another blood test, even though all i want to do is lay on the couch & chat with ramona about animals or whatever.

we’re moving in 17 days. tomorrow is my birthday. i’ll be 36. we haven’t decided yet if we are actually going to start trying for a second kid once i am all recovered from this miscarriage & back to normal. i haven’t gone into detail here, but trying to find a provider that wasn’t a complete asshole was a real problem. my options for care are limited since ramona was delivered by cesarean. trying to plan my next birth made me realize that i am still really traumatized by that pregnancy & birth & i should probably work through that a little bit more before i worry about having another kid.

achievement unlocked: “paper-pieced home” blocks, part three

hey, i’m still alive! we’re moving in less than three weeks & i feel like life is a little bit hectic right now, so i’ve been kind of checked out blog-wise. i’m also not really doing any sewing aside from blocks for my big paper-pieced quilt, & i haven’t even been working on that very consistently because i’ve been so busy packing & napping & dicking around on the internet. but here are my five most recent blocks.

IMG_9393

women’s fancy shoe. i was not super-stoked about this pattern. that’s why i chose kind of a strange mix of fabrics for it. orange & green & brown & gray & ivory? but it actually turned out better than i expected. the sample photo in the book used a barftastic orange plaid for the sole. (i dislike orange & i’m not really into plaid, so let’s call it subjectively barftastic). it just wasn’t speaking to me. but this block is kind of a testament to what a difference fabrics can make. i also swapped out on piece of the shoe for a bit of background fabric to turn the shoe into more of a slingback than a big ol’ platform clodhopper. the pattern also called for embroidering a shoelace, but i’m not that experienced with embroidery, & i had this little scrap of ivory ribbon, so i used that instead.

IMG_9400

men’s fancy shoe. this is another pattern that isn’t really my jam. it’s a little too angular, pointy, & mid-century modern for me, but i gave it a whirl anyway. to be honest, i don’t super-love the way it came out. i used navy for the shoe body even though i just don’t really care for navy. then i used gray for the sole, which wound up being a little too close in shade to the navy. i really don’t like the red & white stripe detail. i regret not using a solid for that. but to my surprise, this block got a very positive response when i posted it on facebook. people were saying it was their favorite block yet! so who knows? maybe i’m just being too critical. i do like the yellow fabric i used for the background.

IMG_9398

this block is called “those 70s pants”. another design that did not overwhelm me with excitement. but it was definitely another chance to pair some funky fabrics. jared was like, “…yellow with flowers & green polka dots?” to be clear, if these pants were actual pants, i would be very unlikely to wear them. but the point isn’t necessarily to use fabrics to piece something you’d want for yourself if it was real. i think the fabrics i chose capture the essence of the block design. i do fear that the background fabric overwhelms it a bit, but that’s kind of just the nature of red. red is always a little harsh to my eye.

IMG_9399

beach bag. i had a hard time choosing fabrics for this block. usually i go in knowing at least the general colors i want to use, or knowing i want a specific print scale. i tried a million different fabrics before i settled on this combo. ultimately i decided this bright gingham would be good for the body of the bag–& it’s worth noting that this photo really does not capture the vibrancy of the colors. the gingham is purple & hot pink & it is BRIGHT. i had a matching hot pink solid to use for the handles, & the accent colors in the aqua jellyfish fabric i used to make my princess seam sailor dress last summer coordinated as well, so i used that for the zigzag element. i went with newsprint fabric for the background to balance the bright colors a little. ultimately, i don’t love the jellyfish fabric as it is deployed here, but…eh, it’s all right. this is a bag i might actually carry in real life, if it was real.

IMG_9413

another very mid-century modern design, this time a couch. there was no question about using wood grain print for the legs, & then i remembered i had some scraps of this hexie fabric left over from a quilt i made for ramona couple of years ago. i found a small-ish scale red & white polka dot print in my stash that coordinated really well with the red & white polka dot hexies, & i pulled a lime green solid for the cushion. at the end of the day, i kind of wonder if a green couch with a hexie print cushion might have worked better (i don’t love the places where the solid red hexies are bleeding into the polka dot background), but honestly, if i was in a furniture shop & saw a hexie print couch, i would buy it in a heartbeat, so.

i have several more blocks in various stages of completion. my original thought was that i could get all forty blocks done before we move–maybe even finish the whole quilt top. but now i’m thinking that’s really not the best use of time, & kind of unrealistic to boot. i mean, packing is going fairly well–a lot better than i expected it to go with a two-year-old underfoot. jared has cleaned out the basement & the attic & we decided to go ahead & splurge on movers because it turns out that such a thing is much more affordable than i expected. i mean, if you have a choice between renting a truck & exhausting yourself moving everything yourself & then spending the next week trying to recover while chasing after a two-year-old versus paying a couple hundred bucks to have professionals take care of it for you, i think professionals are the way to go. particularly if you are in your mid-30s or older.

& speaking of older, i turn 36 on saturday. my birthday has kind of snuck up on me this year, i guess because i’ve been more focused on the move & on the day to day responsibilities of looking after ramona. i don’t know if i’m feeling particularly impatient right now for some reason, but oh my god, her nap/bedtime routines make me want to die. she likes to sit on my lap & drink a sippy of milk before she goes into her crib. sounds okay, right? how much milk does a sippy hold? like maybe four ounces? so HOW does it take her 45 minutes to drink it? & i’m just sitting there the whole time being like, “no, i don’t want to drink your sippy. please don’t stick your fingers in my mouth. leave my glasses alone. stop scratching me with your toenails. watch your elbows, please. can you please just focus on your milk. no, i’m not going to sing ‘the wheels on the bus’ right now.” i honestly think she is at least 80% elbows, judging by how she manages to dig them into at least five different parts of my body simultaneously any time she’s within ten feet of me.

& we’re looking into buying a new (used) car! so instead of being able to collapse on to the couch in a heap with a copy of “threads” magazine or something tonight when jared gets home, we are driving to topeka to test drive a car in a CVS parking lot. as our friend bart said, “that car is gonna haveĀ  a lot of sudafed in the trunk.” a CVS parking lot in topeka is pretty much the last place i want to go today, & i don’t love the idea of dropping $2000 i don’t have on a new car, but…it will be nice to possibly own a four-door car. maybe something a little quieter than our current car.

adulting. it never stops!

achievement unlocked: “paper-pieced home” blocks, part two

i’m definitely getting faster with my paper-piecing. here are five more blocks i’ve made.

IMG_9374

i posted this photo last week when i wrote about how i paper-piece. i made some effort to pattern-match the white-on-red circles across seams, with mixed results. i think i did okay. obviously it could be a lot more precise. i have since refined my technique a bit to get better results. i leave my paper pattern guide on the fabric i am piecing until i’ve glued down the seam, which enables me to match edges a lot more carefully. pattern-matching is hard because even if i technically have the fabric trimmed to the correct size & angle, if it shifts up or down even 1/16″ of an inch when i sew my first seam, it throws off the entire rest of the block. but you know, that’s all part of the challenge (& hence, the fun!).

IMG_9389

fruit bowl! this one took FOREVER. i also ran out of fabric gluestick just as i was settling in to cut fabric. i wound up going to the grocery store & picking up a couple of three-packs of disappearing purple elmer’s gluestick & you know what? i actually like it WAY better than the expensive fabric gluestick. it’s considerably cheaper, it doesn’t dry out as quickly, the purple means i can see exactly where i’m applying it & make sure it’s only going where i want it, & it’s a little less sticky, so peeling the fabric off after the block is sewn is way easier.

this block is twenty sections, & several sections have numerous pieces. i don’t even know how many little bits of fabric this used. maybe around 75? ultimately, it turned out well. the yellow banana pops against the purple background & i think the pear is adorable. but just sewing the different sections together after everything was pieced literally took almost three hours.

IMG_9396

i’m all done with the kitchen blocks & have moved into “things to wear”. first up is this retro swimsuit. this is a pretty large block (the first one that was two pieces of paper taped together–& yes, i did melt the tape with my iron, whoops). since it was large, i could use a larger print. i had a little scrap of this joel dewberry aviary print left over from the amy butler poof i made last year–perfect for the swimsuit top. i coordinated it with a wood grain print for the bottoms & used pink mini pearl bracelets for the accents. i thought about using off-white instead, because i was worried that a pink print would be too busy (no solids in this block), but i took a chance & i think it paid off. the mini pearl bracelets have enough solid to tie the top & bottom together, & the crosshatch background is so delicate that the main design really pops.

IMG_9395

i LOVE how this sleeveless dress block came out! it’s a small-ish block, but i thought the scale of the strawberry print would still work okay as the main fabric for the dress. i picked up the darker pink from the accent berries in the belt & collar & used red for the belt buckle because it contrasted well with the blue, & because i love red & pink together. i had a hard time settling on a background fabric. my initial instinct was to go with yellow, but all my yellow prints were a little too mustard-y & i didn’t want to use a solid. this pink coordinates perfectly with the lighter pink in the accent berries & actually scales really well with the blue fabric, even though both are smaller prints. i’m surprised & pleased by how these fabrics play together.

IMG_9394

i wasn’t super-excited about this t-shirt block. i thought the sample used in the book was a little blah.

IMG_9397

see what i mean? the t-shirt color is a little dingy, & i don’t love the purple & that orange-y background together. plus, you know, t-shirts are just not as thrilling as sleeveless dresses & retro swimsuits.

none of the fabrics i was considering for the accent strip worked scale-wise & i wasn’t sure how to proceed until i unearthed a bit of that really 70s-ish apples-&-pears print, which was a hand-me-down from my old zine friend emily. it’s not something i would gravitate toward on my own, but it was perfect scale-wise for this block. i just didn’t like the colors…until i laid them against the bright yellow fabric i used for the tee. i tried a million different greens for the background (thinking it would pick up the green in the leaves of the fruit), but they all seemed too murky. then i tried these aqua squares & all the fabrics came together. i LOVE how this block came out, & it’s a real testament to the fact that fabric selection can completely make or break a block regardless of your initial response to the basic design.

i’m definitely getting faster with my piecing & learning more & more techniques for boosting my precision along the way. & i am having more fun choosing fabrics with every new block! my plan is to stitch all these blocks into a housewarming quilt for myself (we’re moving houses next month) & i am so excited, thinking about how all these different prints & colors will dress up our new bedroom. i really need to sink more time into actually packing for the move, but i don’t want to leave my sewing machine! it’s also been fun to bring jared into some of the color & fabric decisions. he has even had a few design suggestions i’ve implemented.

i also sewed myself a new dress this week–another lady skater with side-slant pockets. when it’s 94 degrees & 78% humidity, it’s all i can really handle wearing if i am being tasked with wearing real clothes (as opposed to the tank tops & tap shorts i wear around the house). no photos yet because i have been avoiding going outside. it’s cooler today & we’re going for a family walk later, so maybe i’ll get jared to take some photos this evening.

my paper-piecing process

i sewed another block from the paper-pieced home this afternoon.

IMG_9374

strawberry print sauce pan!

this time i took a few photos along the way so i could write about my process for making these, & a few little tricks i’ve learned. note that i am far from some kind of paper-piecing wizard. but i might have something helpful to impart to people who brand new to this kind of sewing.

first i decide what fabrics i want to use. i just love these vintage market strawberry prints, so i decided to use the yellow colorway as the accent design. i picked up the aqua flowers in that print with a solid aqua fat quarter, & used the same black print i used for the handle of the paper-pieced take-out container for the handle, rim, & knob on the sauce pan. i decided i wanted some kind of red for the background because i’m trying to use a different background color on each group of blocks. there are seven kitchen blocks in the book, & i’ve already used blue, yellow, orange, gray, & pink. the only block left after this is a fruit bowl, & obviously i’ll be using red for some of the fruit, so i went with a red background here. it also picks up the red of the strawberries. i had quite a bit of red to choose from, but went with this print because it’s pretty large (in contrast to the small prints of the strawberries & the black) & to again challenge myself to do a bit of print-matching.

so. once i’ve picked out my fabrics & pressed them (it’s easier to cut & stitch precisely with fabric that is already pressed), i print out two copies of my pattern.

IMG_9369

i label each section on both patterns with the fabric i will be using for it. i tried to wing it & did not do this with my first take-out container block & i wound up sewing the wrong fabric to the wrong section at least three times. i tried labeling only the pattern i’m going to cut apart to measure the fabric with another block, but some of the sections are tiny & easy to lose, & at one point, i thought i’d lost a little scrap of cut fabric & went ahead & cut & sewed a new one…& then realized i’d used the wrong fabric. so. now i double the failsafes to make sure i’m using the right fabric by labeling both patterns.

on the pattern i am using as a sewing guide, i draw a line all around the outside edges to remind myself not to cut down the seam allowances there.

the other pattern is a cutting guide. i make a notation (usually just a line) on every single piece indicating where it has its initial join to the foundation block. then i cut the whole thing apart, every single tiny piece, & sort them by fabric.

one fabric at a time (instead of one pattern section at a time–this block used five sections), i use a little dab of fabric gluestick to affix each pattern guide to the fabric, making sure to leave generous seam allowances all around. sure, you can just cut fabric as you go, but a lot of paper-piecing patterns use angled lines & i always struggle with cutting the angles right to make sure i’m covering the whole block with a big enough seam allowance. the fastest way to fuck up a paper-piecing project is to make the seam allowances too small. you need to cut enough fabric to cover the entire section with a quarter-inch seam allowance all around. rough-cutting with a pattern guide makes this way easier, with the bonus that you can take this opportunity to make sure directional prints are going the way you want, & making some effort at pattern-matching if you like.

to make sure all your angles are correct, remember to affix the WRONG side of the paper to the WRONG side of the fabric. this is crucial! otherwise you’re just wasting all this prep work!

here’s what it looks like with pattern guides affixed to the fabric:

IMG_9367

my favorite trick: like i said, i mark the pattern guides on the seam that will be attached to the foundation fabric. i cut that edge of the fabric down to exactly 1/4″ & rough cut the rest. that way i know i’m getting the angles exactly right on directional fabrics. i’ve also tried cutting with a 1/4″ seam allowance all around right from the start, but that requires a lot of precision when piecing all the little bits together. so now i just trim the other seam allowances after i sew. that’s an easier way of getting exact seam allowances.

IMG_9368

rough-cut fabric, ready to be pieced!

so. then i piece piece piece. i like to piece all the sections of a pattern at once & trim & press in batches. it’s just faster compared to getting up to trim & press every single seam as it is sewn. & since everything is labeled, there’s no confusion about which fabric goes where. i use a microtex needle & a 1.4 stitch length. a really tiny stitch length perforates the paper & makes it easier to tear away after the block is done, without ripping out the stitches. i’m also using off-white fabric for all my piecing. with my first few paper-piecing projects, i saw them as an opportunity to use up bits & bobs & random thread left over from other projects, but that just looks shitty if any stitches are visible in the final project (which will happen if you don’t stitch EXACTLY–& i mean EXACTLY– over your foundation stitching as you add new pieces. so now i just use a thread color that more or less blends. problem solved.

IMG_9370

as i piece, i only trim down the seam allowances where another piece of fabric is going to be joined. i don’t trim the fabric overhanging the outside of the section yet. this is what the sections look like once everything is sewn & pressed, but not yet trimmed.

IMG_9371

this is what my block looks like with all the sections joined, but not yet trimmed to size.

IMG_9372

& the back. i pulled the paper that was abutting the final seam because it was getting in the way of pressing, but i try to leave as much as i can as a guide for trimming down to size.

the final size for this block was, i think, 5″ by 7″. that’s the size the block would be once sewn into a project (a quilt, a pillow, a bag, whatever). that means the unfinished size should be 5.5″ by 7.5″, so there’s a 1/4″ seam allowance all around. using the edges of the patterns, easily identified by the lines i marked at the beginning, as a rough guide, i trimmed down my block & voila! all done!

achievement unlocked: “paper-pieced home” blocks, part one

after sewing all the things & writing a million posts about it last month, i’ve been pretty checked out in june. i haven’t even been sewing much, even though i still have a few projects cut out & ready to be stitched left over from may.

a couple of weeks ago, i came across a new book called the paper-pieced home, by penny layman. i rather enjoy paper-piecing, though i’ve only done a couple of projects, & none since last summer. i kind of oscillate between garment-sewing & craft sewing. i go all in on one type for a while & then i need a break & switch to the other. i sewed so many new garments last month, i needed to turn to some crafty sewing as a palate cleanser, & penny’s book really intrigued me.

IMG_9357

there are so many great blocks in this book (forty in all) that i didn’t really know where to start, so i just started at the beginning & made block #1: a take-out container. i don’t have many low-volume prints in my stash, but i had this cream fabric printed with little red scissors that my friend rebecca gave to me for my birthday last year. (she used to dabble in quilting before she decided that the precision required was just not her thing.)

as you can see, my block did not come out perfectly. one of the brilliant things about penny’s patterns is that she includes little notches to show you exactly how one section is supposed to meet up with another, & i didn’t really catch on to that at first & ignored them. i also trimmed all my seam allowances as i sewed, which resulted in slightly imperfect seam allowances. that little jog along the left-hand side of the take-out container image is maybe about 1/8″, but you know. it makes a difference. i tend to use a really tiny stitch length when paper-piecing, because it perforates the paper more & makes it easier to tear the paper off after without ripping out any stitches. but obviously that makes ripping out seams a giant pain in the ass.

ultimately, i decided that i didn’t love the way my background fabric was all over the place directionally, & i made the block again from scratch.

IMG_9366

yay! this one turned out much better.

IMG_9361

next up was “espresso mug”. i thought the cup design looked more like an old-fashioned milkshake glass, & i have also been interested in working more pink into my sewing, so i turned it into a strawberry milkshake. i fussy cut the fabric for the striped straw to make sure the stripes were angled the way i wanted.

IMG_9362

this is the oven mitt block. i really tried to more or less keep the plus signs on the background fabric even across sections. i probably could have been a little more painstaking about print-matching, but you know. it’s a learning process. the cuff on the mitt was supposed to be paper-pieced to look like lace, but i decided to use a bit of actual lace from my stash. even though i have never seen a lace-trimmed oven mitt in my life.

side note: jared calls oven mitts “hot mitts”. is that a regionalism? he’s from boston, i’m from ohio. he even has ramona saying “hot mitt” now.

IMG_9364

layer cake block. i guess it’s kind of hard to see here, but the yellow print i used for the frosting has little pink flowers in it, which pick up the pink of the cakestand. the flowers’ leaves are a gray-green that coordinates well with the gray background fabric. when i made this block, i accidentally sewed one section with the wrong fabric & didn’t notice until the whole thing was constructed, pressed, & trimmed. so i appliqued the correct fabric in place & trimmed away the wrong fabric underneath. i’m not a huge fan of cake in reality, but this block makes me wish i actually owned a pink cakestand. also, the fabric i used for the plate part of the stand is the same as the fabric i used for the strawberry milkshake in the espresso mug block!

IMG_9365

this is fun: a cast iron pan containing a fried egg! i had plain white fabric i could have used for the white of the egg, but since i was using solid black for the pan, i decided to use a print. i have a little charm pack of mini pearl bracelets & used the white-on-white print. the egg is appliqued. i tried using the freezer paper method, but it just didn’t really work out for me. it looked a little messy. so i used my usual sew-to-interfacing-&-flip-right-side-out method, which was much easier. they are hand-stitched to the block.

the background fabric is the strawberry print from tasha noel’s newest fabric line, vintage market. i am OBSESSED with this fabric. i thought it would work well as a background print here because the rest of the block is pretty solid, & it helps underline the retro kitchen vibe. i bought a couple of yards of all three colorways (it also comes in aqua & yellow) from an etsy shop having a sale & am planning to make curtains for every room in our new house. kitchen, bathroom, dining room, bedrooms–there’s nowhere that wouldn’t look great with this fabric!

paper-piecing is definitely a love-it-or-hate-it technique. i can understand why some people loathe it. it’s time-consuming & fiddly. even though the point of paper-piecing is that it “allows for the kind of precision that guarantees perfect results every time,” it REQUIRES a degree of precision that is easy to fuck up. it also eats up a fair amount of fabric & generates a lot of tiny, useless scraps. i think the fastest i sewed one of these blocks was maybe two hours, & most took considerably longer.

BUT! i really love paper-piecing. the attention to detail that is required is really enjoyable for me, i like trying to choose the right fabrics, i like fussy-cutting little details (like the striped straw in the milkshake), & i like watching my technique get a little better with every block. i figure that if i sew up one block per day, i can sew all forty blocks in the book by the time we move, & then i can stitch them together into a lovely quilt as a housewarming gift for myself. which is ridiculous because sewing for a couple of hours everyday is probably not the best use of my time when i have an entire house to pack up (on top of all the usual daily living things: taking care of ramona, paying bills, showering, eating, etc). & we’re moving in july. we’re not going to be using quilts then. but i guess if i get the quilt top done in the next month or two, i can take my time hand-quilting it & have something really nice ready to roll once the weather gets cold again.

so! watch this space for more paper-pieced blocks…& other things–i do have a few more garment projects planned. i’ve also been asked to make custom aprons for a local business, so we’ll see if that goes anywhere.