2017 Maker Report

This has been such a surreal year – I bought, decorated, and moved into my first house at the beginning of the year – and I’m sure it’ll always be an outlier in that regard.

Every time someone asks what I’m working on, from a sewing/quilting perspective, I’d said, “My house is my hobby right now.” And that’s been true – a lot of this list is going to include house projects which I’m VERY proud of completing. But I also wanted to take a moment and acknowledge the many things that were sewn this year, even if they were often in batches,  and sometimes frantically to a deadline.

1. Somewhat over-ambitiously, I thought I’d dip my toe into upholstery. This only involved buying a DIY upholstery book and attempting to re-seat a cute chair I found on a sidewalk years ago. It was more effort than I expected, though I’m still proud of the outcome. (No pictures of the finished product though – just this process shot…)
Still collecting hobbies. #waitingformorestaples

2. This tabletop was built a few years ago with the help of a friend’s husband. He had the tools and the attention to detail to ensure my vague vision was well-executed, and I actually placed the tabletop on a smaller table in our house for a while. But once I closed on the house, I knew I could finally complete my vision of building a pipe base. It was really fun to sketch and plan the measurements, and VERY frustrating to twist it all together.
Built some legs. Then I took everything apart to be re-assembled in the new home!

3. This was a quick re-upholstery job, covering a dingy fabric stool with some heavyweight fabric that I (tragically) tried making into a dress many years ago. I love having a fabric stash, especially one filled with mistakes that I haven’t yet tossed, so I can dig through for materials in the middle of the night.
I'll probably hate this tomorrow, but this bench needed some cushion and I've had this fabric (from a failed dress) for at least 10 years. #neverpackthestaplegun

4. I assembled a LOT of furniture in the past year, but this bed was the most difficult. So I feel like the Maggie who wrestled with it one night in February should be honored.Guest ready! #onceiwashthesheets #afterifindthem

5. DID YOU KNOW you can by some hairpin legs on Amazon and attach them to a random board and suddenly have a decorative bench? YOU TOTALLY CAN.
Here's the bench! Fitting perfectly against a narrow wall, as if I planned it. ❤

6. Once I was all moved in, with a SEWING ROOM (which was admittedly the last thing to be set up in the house), I felt some pressure to take advantage. This quilt was partially pieced before the move, and had a client eager for delivery, so it was the first finished and photographed at this new house.Untitled

7. Me Made May motivated one sewing project, though in past years it’s been responsible for the bulk of my sewing. This dress, however, became one of my most worn items as the weather changed.I made this dress yesterday. I'm wearing it today. Not sure what #MeMadeMay2017 will look like since homeownership continues to claim my extra money and time. BUT I'm thankful for this fabric in my stash and for the minor alterations that made this favori

8. Since I was doing laundry every few nights so that I could put that purple dress back on, I made a few more versions to get me through the summer. (I love a handmade uniform.) A few weeks ago, I made two more copies of this dress, and now I legit have a summer wardrobe. #maggiemadewardrobe

9. I was clearly getting some sewing mojo back along with that project, because I decided to tackle a queen-sized linen whole cloth quilt for the guest bed. It took a lot of hours, particulary the hand-quilted portions, but I love it (and have already started dreaming of making a throw blanket of a similar style).
Had one section left to quilt. Now I have to figure out what to bind it with.

10. True confession: I DO NOT REMEMBER BEING THIS PRODUCTIVE. But apparently I made ANOTHER quilt for a client, and finished it in August/September. New house fact: I can lay out (and pin baste) a twin sized quilt in the living room if I just move the coffee table (and plants).

11. For my birthday, my parents offered to visit and help me with house projects. The list I came up with was EPIC and included, as a final dream item, this small addition to my back porch slab. The new view from my back door. #mudpiesforeveryone #wecaneatonthepatio

12. I asked to participate in the New City Artist Exchange this year, partially to motivate myself to make some new things, but also so that I could collect more art for my walls. Overall, I made 15 (or 16?) small quilted works, which probably add up to the work of a whole quilt. Finally make a first attempt at something for the Art Exchange with @newcityartsinitiative! I’m paper piecing for the first time, and it’s fun! (Wonky McWonkerson on the top right will be blamed on the learning curve.)

13. One of my wardrobe goals over the past few years is to sew as many basics as possible. So I was thrilled to realize that the Plantain and Nettie tees I’ve sewn in the past have been my most-worn. I made a batch of new ones, and would apologize for the lack of creativity in color selection except for the fact that these are the colors I grab first in my closet Every Single Time. (Except for the pink. That was to coordinate with a burgundy pencil skirt.)Clockwise: #plantaintee times three, then one #nettietee. Millennial pink, slate, indigo, navy. #batchsewing #winterlayering

14. Weirdly, I’m the most proud of this next one. Perhaps because it’s one of the most recent? The story is that I wanted to build some more shelving, and realized that I was trying to determine when my parents were next in town so my dad could help. But then I thought, “Maggie, you are bad-ass enough to build furniture without any help!” And so I did some research, bought some lumber, assembled it…unassembled it, bought some crucial new tools (wood glue, clamps), assembled it again, and now I feel like I could make anything! 😍👷‍♀️🙌

15. The first time I’ve ever sewn curtains, an it happened in the middle of the night when I had a spontaneous desire to floral ones.This is my last Project Report (any Octonaut fans will know the tune I sang that to): the first time I have EVER sewn curtains! 😱

16. Here’s a quick sketch I made a week ago when I realized there was a need for something this size/color/texture on my living room wall: Pulled out the camera while sun was shining this weekend.

17. And here’s my final report of 2017 (unless something else is made in the next few weeks): 4 of 6 throw pillows I’ve re-covered to better fit into this new space. All of them made with fabric from my stash (small scraps and leftovers, or larger pieces I knew I’d likely never sew garments with) and all assembled somewhat frantically the night before houseguests arrived. 20171217-IMG_6491

So my 2017 tally is 3 full-sized quilts (plus the quilted art pieces, plus a baby quilt commission that I didn’t put in here), 3 dresses, 4 shirts, 6 pillows, and a beautiful collection of things built for the house. I feel pretty good about this level of creative productivity! And I’m excited to see what I manage to make in 2018 – maybe I’ll find excuses to use the sewing room more frequently.

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house/life updates

If you haven’t noticed, my “schedule” for these updates is totally dependent on a) when I think to pull out the camera and take some photos of the house and b) when I have my laptop near a wifi signal and remember to upload photos.

Which is the first life update – that I’m still internet-less at home. Have I mentioned that here? It’s been a bit of a social experiment, to see what my home life would look like unplugged. I thought it would only last the first month – which nicely coincided with Lent – but the superfast fiber internet that I’m waiting to be installed in our neighborhood is taking a bit longer than anticipated. (So, in addition to the social experiment, it was also a desire to have the best/newest technology, which is surprisingly affordable.)

Being unplugged has been mostly good. No more middle-of-the-night shopping. Less Facebook. Those are both hugely positive! I missed watching movies and television online, though breaking my addiction to mindless binge watching was one hoped-for outcome.  But then I realized that a moderate amount of mindless entertainment was a good way to keep me from obsessively working on projects, and wearing myself out. The workaround is that I bought a kindle fire – I can pre-download shows/movies onto this device somewhere with internet, then watch them at home.

OH RIGHT I MEANT TO SHOW YOU SOME PHOTOS.

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Things to notice:
-I finally made some coasters! From one of my first quilt samplers, which I’ve been carrying around for quite some time now. (The fabrics are leftover from my Hex Quilt.)
-Those two pillows on the right are going to be covered in something neutral. I love having some pops of color/pattern, but those two are just a smidge too much. (I just recently decided this, so stay tuned!)
-The coffee table base is no longer filled with quilts, because I SOLD A BUNCH OF THEM! (For real – check out the online store.) It’s been very exciting to send my quilts to loving homes, particularly since those homes belong to dear friends. I also think it’s good for my creative mojo to have less inventory – I want to make new quilts to fill that space!

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ONE of the quilts (which wasn’t even posted in the store, because I wasn’t willing to consider selling it) was traded for this giant painting from a local artist – I sent a crazy email suggesting the trade, and within a week we’d decided on the size/colors/vibe and she’d painted and delivered the work. As someone whose art takes MUCH longer to make, I must say I was impressed by that speed. As the owner of this painting, though, I am thrilled that it’s already mine!

That’s all for today!

recipes I have loved in the past month

What is this world we’re living in where I am blogging about ALL THE THINGS?

Mostly one where I realize my current method for keeping track of recipes is…no method. Or maybe too many methods. I have some pin boards, I have some emailed lists to myself. I also have a NUMBER of recipes printed out and sitting on various surfaces in the house because I’m currently internet-less at home so pinboards and emails are useless in the kitchen. (I should clarify that I’m internet-less AND a real miser about data usage on my phone. I’ve loosened it up a bit, but my friends might stage an intervention before long.)

Okay, so what am I cooking?

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Let’s start by admiring all of those beans and lentils in the kitchen! I inherited this gorgeous display system from an old housemate – who upgraded to prettier jars when she moved into her own space – and in the process I also inherited the contents of some of those jars. Some which have sat in those jars, looking so pretty, but underutilized, for many years. When I moved, I inspected the contents of every jar (sniff test) to determine which were still worth saving. Thankfully, dried beans are nearly indestructible!

But my determination to use them, mixed with my desire to cut down my food budget in this new home-owning reality, means I get to try new recipes and return to some old faves.

1. Chana Masala from Orangette – since I’m intimidated by both chickpeas and indian cooking, I thought I’d try to tackle both in a simple recipe. Molly’s recipes tend to focus on making magic from mundane ingredients, so I thought she’d be a trustworthy source. (She has some other bean recipes that I plan on testing soon – especially when I tackle that giant jar of brown beans.) The verdict? DELICIOUS. Though I realized, as I was cooking, that I have no idea what chana masala is supposed to taste like. But I’m a fan of this recipe and will definitely make it again. (Disclaimer: I used canned chickpeas as recommended in the recipe.)

soaked chickpeas

2. Oven-Roasted Chickpeas from the kitchn – this was my first attempt on the dried chickpeas, but since it was a mixed bag, I didn’t want it first on the list. The few chickpeas that I managed to crisp perfectly were delicious, but it took longer than I expected, and the best tasting ones ended up looking burnt. Also, it was a failure of execution/planning, because I didn’t realize they’d soften if stored. So this is something I might attempt again for a party treat, or in smaller batches to snack on.

3. Cuban Black Bean Soup from the kitchn – I tell everyone to make this soup because it’s so delicious.I’m unsure how many people believe me, so I’ve started serving it to people so they can TASTE THE DELICIOUSNESS and then ask for the recipe. I love this recipe so much that I made it for my first dinner party in the new house, to combat my dinner-party-hosting-anxiety. If you don’t loathe black beans, you will love this soup.

4. Salad with Apples, Cranberries, Pepitas from Cookie + Kate – I had some sunflower seeds on hand when someone asked me to bring a salad to an event, so this recipe popped up in a google search. I bought some Lemon Vinaigrette from Wegmans, and this has turned into my default fancy salad for the moment.

finding new normal

First, confession time: I AM EXHAUSTED. Of course I am! I bought a house! And I furnished the whole thing, and painted the floors and some walls, and built bookshelves and furniture, and started up gardening like it’s not another whole hobby, and I have to find a handyman, and also realized that I forgot to take my car to the mechanic in 2016 (oops) so now on top of the short-term financial crunch of buying a house (which I planned for) I also have a few car expenses that should not be deferred. Isn’t it exhausting just READING that?

Ugh.

But I remind myself, daily, that “grace periods” are a real thing, and that I am living in one, which means I need to show myself a lot of grace. And if I’m being stubborn and not offering it, I need to TAKE it from myself.

What that looks like right now is paying a lot of attention to my energy and anxiety levels. Not scheduling too much on weeknights so that I have the option to climb into bed at 9:30pm (which is what I did last night). But also, remembering that I’m not an introvert, so being alone in a quiet house for a whole weekend isn’t exactly going to refill my tank.

I made a list of things that bring me joy, and it included: being outside (preferably among trees or near calm water), having good conversations with people who know me (aka people I can be my honest self around), moving my body so I don’t feel like a lump, cooking and eating good food, bringing people into my home (sharing what I have as a form of celebration/gratitude).

Turns out I managed to accomplish all of those things this last weekend, in ADDITION to holding a newborn, which is something that brings me much joy but isn’t on my default list (since the availability of newborns isn’t something I can predict/control).

Here are some photos from my house,  in the prepared-for-company state, plus some lovely views on a Sunday morning hike.

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I pushed the dining table against a wall to maximize space for mingling.

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These photos are merely proof that I am still capable of baking delicious things.

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house/plant updates

In the new house, Thursday night is plant watering night! This is also garbage/recycling night, and it might also become sweep/vacuum night. (It felt good to remove dust bunnies before they became dust monsters.)

Though I’m fully moved in, and mostly settled, there is still a lot of arranging and re-arranging happening. This week, I refreshed the guest room – moved the bed from one wall to another, shifted around furniture, swapped some old chairs for others.

My sewing room is almost ready to use – though I have to admit it still feels weird to NOT live in that room. I miss having a bed nearby for spreading out fabrics (though I’ll adapt to using the floor) and I finally realized that there are many more comfortable places in the house to watch movies on my computer. (Duh.)

Other things: have I told you about the neighborhood girl gang? They are all in 3rd or 4th grade, which means they’re all 8 or 9, and they were born in such-and-such year even though their parents THOUGHT they’d be born in such-another year. (This is the amount of information you get when you ask a grade school girl how old she is. I did not realize how important all of those details were.)

They said hi to some of my friends on one of the many moving days, asked if they were moving in, and friends said, “No, but our friend MAGGIE is.” Fast forward to every day after that, when I get out of my car and hear “HI MAGGIE!” from down the street, turn, and see a number of children waving. I finally learned all of their names, and told them about my future garden, and that’s all it took to guarantee my doorbell rings every day.

So far they’ve pestered me about the garden enough to ensure I bought dirt and put it in the bed (though they always seem to disappear on the days when I decide to do the work). They have also tried introducing me to music.ally though I HOPE they realized how pathetic I am in front of a camera. (That laughing outtake will probably be shown to their mothers, which will help increase familiarity within the neighborhood.) Also, one of them named her Fake American Girl doll after me, which might become the sweetest moment of 2017.

Okay, that’s enough of a life update. Here are some plant photos!

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These are a few pothos branches that fell off the original plant – I put them in soil to see what would happen, and they seem to be very happy. (On the left, in front of the open leaf, you can see a lighter green shoot that is unfurling a new leaf.) This teapot came from my grandparents’ basement, and I’m so happy it finally has a purpose!

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The lemon button ferns in my kitchen window are finally looking happy – I bought them a year ago, and have been pinching dry branches on a regular basis – you can see a little nub on the end of that center-of-the-photo branch which is new growth!

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This chinese evergreen is my oldest houseplant, and I recommend them to anyone who is terrified of houseplants. It’s huge and beautiful and seems to adapt to any level of light. It’s also sporting some new growth on top!

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Did I tell you I bought a palm tree at Ikea? It’s in the guest bedroom, and in the recent shuffle I have placed it on a chair so it’s even more intimidating.

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Awww! The fiddle leaf figs! You didn’t think I’d leave them out, did you? This one is in the bathroom (morning light, filtered) and I’ve been trying to train it away from that pronounced curve to the left that it developed in the past year. I’m encouraged that the top branch is growing upward AND it’s already started some new growth! One thing I discovered during research is that this tree is essentially dormant during cold weather, but that it averages a foot of growth during warm weather months when it’s healthy.

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And here’s the beautiful, perfectly straight fiddle leaf fig that’s in my sewing room. I think it’s really cute that they both have one giant leave, and I’m guessing this is the one that continues growing during their “dormant” phase.

FYI I have swapped out this rope basket with a metal planter (okay a trash bin because they are cheaper than planters) because it was starting to get dingy – in my experience, these trees hold very little water in the soil, so there’s always a LOT of run-off. That muddy run-off didn’t pair well with this white rope.

That was fun! Maybe I’ll start giving more regular updates like this!