Archive | February, 2011

What Do We Value?

27 Feb

Yakima River Valley

I was standing in my kitchen tonight baking brownies for my kids and I found myself wondering how many more times I would bake brownies here. Usually that would be an odd thing to think, but we are at a defining moment in our lives, and suddenly I’m feeling nostalgic about my blue laminate counter tops and stark white appliances.

Lizze recently wrote about making changes in her life, starting over with a “New Beginning”. I am making some big changes as well, but rather than a new beginning, it is more like a flashback.

I grew up in Yakima, a small-ish town in eastern Washington state. For the last 13 years I have lived in the Seattle area where we have one season – overcast. Yakima has super hot summers where the cool breeze at night is just right. The winters are bitter cold with lots of snow. Spring is green and smells of flowers and fall is orange and red with a refreshing crispness in the air. I miss living in a town that has all 4 seasons, a place where you don’t need a calendar to know what month it is.

Decision time has come for us and we were given a difficult choice. The choice was, essentially, to pick what is most important to us. We could stay here in this cloudy and overcrowded place. The place where our kids have grown up, a long way from our families. If we stayed my husband was looking at a dramatic increase in pay, but also much less time with the children. Or, we pack up a moving truck and head back over the mountains and go home. Home to sunshine, family, and friends, but no increase in pay.

So what do we value most? Is it money? Having nice things? Yes. We need money to live and I do want nice things for us. But ultimately we chose experiences and family over the extra income. I want these kids to grow up having family around. When I was a kid we all  had dinner at my grandma’s house every Sunday. I haven’t had dinner at my grandma’s table in many years and I miss it dearly. I want family to come to my kid’s school performances, sporting events, and birthday parties. I want to get together and have picnics in the summer. I want to spend Christmas with them again.

We are scared of changing. Selling our home in this economy is a daunting task. Saying goodbye to our neighbors and friends will be hard. But it will all be worth it. I have dreams of big old farmhouses and 4th of July BBQ’s dancing in my head.

For Lizze and I, 2011 is shaping up to be quite a year full of new and exciting things. We are both afraid of some sort of disaster; of making a wrong choice. However, we have both made choices that are putting our families and our children before anything else. How can that ever be wrong?

“The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want at the moment” – Robert G. Allen

Selina

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The Disappearance of the Domestic Product

25 Feb

It’s no secret that finding products made in America are harder and harder to find.  Here in Seattle, our “hometown” aerospace manufacturer, Boeing, was just awarded the Air Force Tanker contract!  They were in competition with EADS (Airbus), a European company.  It was a very close competition, but ultimately the American contractor won out, creating American jobs making airplanes for the American military.  It seems odd to me that we nearly lost an American military contract to a foreign company.

I’m not trying to be political here, but I have to wonder what has become of manufacturing in this country.  MADE IN AMERICA!  It used to be a source of pride and a badge of honor.  Is low cost and net profit the American way now?  I suppose that’s the nature of capitalism and I need to get with the program.  But what if I don’t want to?  What if I genuinely want to purchase goods made here, despite the “high cost”.  Fabric, for instance.

I fancy myself a fabric snob.  I love well manufactured cottons, and I am a big consumer of boutique fabrics.  I’m not sure why I was so surprised to find my favorite, high end lines of fabric were made over seas, but I was.  Maybe it’s because the cotton usually starts here and is shipped overseas, and that the offices of these companies are here in the states…Anyhow, it got me to thinking about where I might be able to find textiles manufactured, beginning to end, from the USA.  My quest has begun!

I know the clothing manufacturer American Apparel is made in America.  And by made, I mean they process their own cotton, weave it, dye it, design it, cut it and produce clothes from it all in downtown L.A. That being said, they don’t make quilting fabric.

Many of the fabrics offered at Connecting Threads (a company from Washington Sate!) are made from American cotton, woven and printed here…but is that it?  Are there not any other textile companies that offer domestic fabric?  The Warm Company (also from Washington!!) manufactures its batting here in America, and that’s pretty great!

I guess I didn’t think it would be so difficult to find American made quilting fabric, but I won’t give up the search!  In fact, maybe I won’t give up the demand, which is really what it’s all about.

Lizze

 

Quilting a New Beginning

18 Feb

So often we start a quilt to commemorate a new beginning; a baby, a wedding, graduation, etc.  The quilt itself is a new beginning as well.  It’s a new pattern, new fabric, a challenge you’ve not yet undertaken, and the end result is a piece of you.  It’s a product of your own making; your time, your patience, your skill and love.  What you have as a result of your efforts is material, concrete.  Something you can hold in your hands, wrap yourself or a loved one in, and represents you and your love.

So often I have started a quilt for a baby-to-be and imagined how this new life would change the world, or at least, my world.  My first baby quilt was for my nephew some fourteen years ago.  My sister’s little one would be the first grandchild born on my mother’s side.  I had babysat a few neighbor kids, but this was my first “new baby”!  My sister and I were in very different places in our lives.  She was a college graduate, had been married a number of years by then and had a career.  I was still in high school.  It was my senior year.

At my age, I had never been to a baby shower or had any idea what an undertaking adding a new life could be.  I imagined what this new baby would mean to our family dynamic, how this new life would add to the family and how wonderful Christmas would be with a little one!  I’m not sure why it would strike a 17 year old girl to make a quilt for a baby, rather than buy off of a registry, but that’s exactly what I did.  I had it in my mind that this baby needed a quilt. And I needed to be the one to make it!

Aww, look at that tiny machine!

It so happened that I needed a Senior Project to graduate High School.  I instantly knew that my quilt for baby would be my product and my research paper would be on quilting.  As I sewed, I thought about this new baby, this new beginning.  That wasn’t what my paper was about, but that was the lesson I took away.

Many years later I made the same quilt for his sister, but in pinks instead of blues.  I have made a number of baby blankets throughout the years, all for the welcoming of a New Beginning, two for my own children as well.

I am currently at a precipice in my life right now, and am looking toward a New Beginning.  I am not expecting a baby, but I am facing a major change.  So, what’s the first thing I think of?  Why, making a quilt of course!!

I have a number of quilt kits.  And by “a number”, I mean more than any reasonable person should have.  And by “reasonable”, I mean “sane”.  One of said quilt kits is a blue and white gingham based king sized quilt from Thangles Buck-a-block.  (Blue gingham has always been a favorite of mine.)  I had been participating the buck a block program at my local quilt shop, The Calico Cat, before they closed.  While I was sad to see them close, I was able to get the finishing kit for my buck a block at a discount!  As things happen, it has been sitting prettily under my desk for some time.  I have decided that now is the time for this quilt.  This will be my reemergence into the life I want to live.  I will likely be moving July 1st, and intend to have this quilt completed as a housewarming gift to myself.   I have only made one other king sized quilt (for myself), and it took me about a month to complete!  Now that I have my deadline, I have a clear goal in mind.

So, while this kit is not “new” to me, the project is.  It will be the physical manifestation of my New Beginning.  I look forward to the process, the undertaking and the symbolism it holds.  I will always be able to see this blanket and remember this time in my life.  Like a secret diary that only I can read.  I will keep you updated on the process and completion.  Wish me luck!!

My New Beginning!

Lizze

 

What to do When Your Kids Grow

9 Feb

Two years ago I promised my daughter I would make her a dress to wear for her first day of kindergarten. I purchased fabric that was brightly colored with letters and sock monkeys on it (she loves sock monkeys!). It was a total pain, I even put in a zipper! Dang, I must love this kid. I got the dress done just in time for her first day of school and she loved it. It immediately became her favorite dress and she wore it at least once a week.

 

She is now in 2nd grade. Imagine her disappointment when she tried to put it on recently and the zipper broke. She had grown quite a bit, so her favorite dress no longer fit her. My mother in law came over one weekend and while she was here we went through the kids clothes to give a bunch of them away. She donates to a local battered womens shelter so I frequently send things home with her to donate when she comes to visit. She put the sock monkey dress in the pile of giveaway clothes. She must not have realized how attached my girl was to it! Well, when grandma wasn’t looking, she fished it out of the pile and hid it under her bed.

One day while doing some serious deep cleaning I found the dress wadded up in a ball under there. I asked her about it and she told me the story of how she rescued it from being given away. I knew I had to do something with this dress because it was so special to her. I asked for her permission to cut it up and make some new things for her from the fabric. She loved the idea and quickly agreed.

Out of this one dress I ended up with a banner for her wall with her name on it, and a really cute little bag. I even reused the tag I had sewn to the inside of the dress that says “made with love by mom”.

Banner for her wall

Inside made with dress lining fabric

The point of this post was to inspire you to use what you already have to  make something new. I know my daughter would have been upset had I just given away this dress that was so special to her. I’m glad I could repurpose it to make something she will be able to use for a very long time. If you look closely at the bag, you will see some stains on the fabric that she got on it when she was playing in the mud or rolling in the grass. Those stains are memories and thinking about how they got there makes me smile.

Selina

Making Dresses (and britches)!

1 Feb

Sunday was a productive day. Lizze and her mom came over to sew with me and we made 6 dresses and 5 pairs of shorts for this charity:

http://www.littledressesforafrica.org/blog/?page_id=477

We took lots of photos to share with you. Please ignore my super messy, ugly sewing studio. It’s in the process of a remodel. It’ll be beautiful soon, but for now, it’s an eyesore. And yes, the curtains are tacked to the drywall.

Cutting out the patterns

Putting the seam ripper to work

Lizze's mom working, and me goofing off

Lizze's "you can take my picture now" face

Tada! All done!

Not bad for a day of work, I’d say. It felt good making these because we knew that they’d be going to kids who would love them. I’ll be shipping them out later in the week. If you want to help, it’s not too late. You have until April to get these sent in! Even if you only make one or two, that’s one or two more children who will have a beautiful dress or a new pair of shorts because of you. Trust me, they will be grateful.

Selina