Monday, August 27, 2012

Baby Quilt

Sleeping Beauty in the tutu her Oma made her
            From the moment my sister told me she was pregnant with my future niece-or-nephew, my heart was filled with joy and my eyes with happy tears.  And I thought of all the fun I would have with this little person, and of all the things I would make for him/her!  When we found out that he-or-she was definitely a she I was thrilled at the possibilities of little girlie dresses, nail polish parties, and sleepovers with “Auntie Rach.”  I made a few trinkets, a stuffed fabric cube with bells inside, a stuffed lion (whose embroidered face turned out so sloppy I haven’t had the heart to either start over or actually gift it) and bought a few irresistibly cute outfits. But the BIG project, the thing I promised my sister, was a crib quilt.
            Deciding the pattern was easy.  I was envisioning a simple block quilt, maybe a thick border, potentially a soft backing made out of that fun minky fabric.  Emily, who has always been very creative, described her vision: a sky blue background fabric with branches appearing out of the sides and cute little silhouettes of birds sprinkled throughout.  I loved the idea… but I was daunted.  I drew a little sketch that she loved.  But all I had was a concept!
Picking out the fabric was easy. It was a very happy afternoon spent at Joann’s fabrics.  We picked up about 1 & ½ yards of a pretty sky blue fabric with chocolate brown mini dots, a nice grassy green for the border, and a whimsical pale green with grass green whirlies for the background.  We labored over the decision of which fabric samples to get for the birds.  We ended up with around 16 smaller fabrics that were going to be sweet little birds on this quilt.  I was so inspired after buying that gorgeous fabric! And 2 months later, it was still sitting in its plastic bag in my sewing room.
 The gorgeous array of fabrics

Emily was very patient with me. Time passed, and I threw her a(n awesome) baby shower.  The fabric remained untouched.  Friends asked what my big present was going to be for the little one.  I answered, somewhat embarrassed, that I was working on a quilt, but was still in the beginning stages.  With 2 months til the due date, I enlisted the help of my domestic-goddess mother-in-law.  She made baby quilts for her 3 boys, I figured she could help me!
Tessa was a lifesaver.  We spent 4 or 5 long Saturdays together out at her farm.  The first week we washed and dried all the fabrics, so that we would ensure the quilt would be washable. (Kind of a must when it’s designed for a baby!) Then we determined the measurements we would use for the quilt. (If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m sorry, this is not a tutorial! I’m lucky I figured anything out at all.)  We made the first cuts into the sky blue fabric.  Then I sketched out bird silhouettes until I was satisfied.  I don’t get much cell phone reception at the farm, and I wanted to text pictures to Emily for approval, but I did alright on my own!  I pretty much adore the sweet little bird silhouette that I ended up with.  Emily and I had pinned different bird images back and forth, and had found our favorite, but I was doubtful of my artistic abilities.  Then we traced and cut the bird silhouettes out of each fabric.  With 2 woman who love sewing, we somehow ended up with only one pair of fabric scissors.  Now, I think that you can never have too many pairs of fabric scissors, and you should always bring one with you when you’re planning a day of sewing. (Hindsight is 20/20!)
Tessa told me that we were going to appliqué the branches and birds onto the blue fabric, then sew on the green border, cut out the batting and the backing, sew it all together, and quilt it by hand.  She said this all very calmly and with a straight face.  I was nervous, but I trusted her.  I had never done appliqué before, but she promised me that once I got the hang of it, it would be easy enough.  We had 2 options – machine appliqué or hand appliqué.  She showed me how to hand appliqué using some scrap fabric.  I felt kind of clumsy, but after a while I got the hang of it and was able to get nearly invisible stitches.  What a feeling of accomplishment!  But how time consuming.  I turned to the sewing machine.  There were tons of different kinds of fancy stitches I could use to appliqué by machine.  I tried out a few, but none felt right.  The invisible stitch appealed so much more than a chunky machine stitch.  And that is how I spent the next 5 weeks of my life!
Every evening after supper, my grandma (who I live with and take care of at the moment) and I would retire to the den to watch TV, usually westerns (gag) sometimes The Big Bang Theory (hooray!) and later, season 1 of NCIS (intriguing and sometimes creepy).  I was slow… There were 6 branches and they took me about 2 weeks.  Tessa got the urge to appliqué, and invited me over for a day of group appliqué (kind of like a really, really small quilting bee) and we knocked out the last 2 branches.  She figured out the secret to sewing those partially curvy, partially pointy birds on.  And that was the next 3 weeks of my life!
The birds laying out on the fabric, branches sketched on
My favorite bird family; I loved the vivid fuschia 
Though this is not a tutorial, I will attempt to describe how I go about appliquéing.  Some people do the fusible interfacing (never used it, didn’t want to) to fuse their 2 fabrics together.  I used good old fashion pins.  I’m sure at least 10 are lost around the carpet in the den, waiting to be stepped out.  We left about ¼ inch – ½ inch border around the drawn out silhouette of the birds when we cut them.  That border was tucked under and sewn, bit by bit, onto the main fabric.  I cut little slits every so often to make it easier to tuck the fabric under.  Around the inside curves, I cut out little v-shaped sections.  I tried a few without cutting slits, and it was much harder. 

Pinned on, with slits cut around yellow piece

Sewn on tight - stitch is invisible

Once all the birds were sewn on, I felt like I was practically finished! Believe me when I say I was not.  I went to Tessa’s farmhouse the weekend before Emily was to be induced.  We measured, cut, and sewed on the green border.  The technique is called mitered edges.  Then we cut out the whirly backing and the batting – extra fluffy batting makes a happy baby!  We pinned the 3 layers together, and then ran a basting stitch all through out it, so that we could later remove the pins.  It was nice finally not having to mess with pins and get stuck constantly.  I felt like I was truly almost done at that point. I. Was. Not.
I spent part of that evening and the entire next day hand-quilting the baby quilt.  Experienced quilters tend to take their quilts to the quilters shop to be professionally quilted.  (I know you were wondering how many times I could use a variation of the world ‘quilt’ in one sentence.)  Tessa told me that quilts that are sold are valued by how many stitches are in them.  In that respect, professional quilting is the way to go.  However, you will spend at least $100 paying for that service.  It makes the quilt very flat, not like a fluffy comforter, but has a lovely quilting stitch all over.  I didn’t want to spend the money, and Tessa was confident that hand quilting was the way to go. 
just love those swirls
We bought special quilting thread, which is thicker than all-purpose thread.  I imagine it is in between all-purpose thread and fishing line.  It was very easy to thread, so I liked that aspect!  You need to start with one small knot.  You want to bring the needle through all 3 layers, but just pop the knot through the first layer, leaving it stuck in between with the batting.  I didn’t quite do the stitching quite the way Tessa taught me, which was to use a quilting thimble and kind of rock the needle back and forth through the layers to create a uniform line.  I had a difficult time doing that, so I just painstakingly went up then down then up then down to make sure I was getting through all the layers.           

Whimsical quilting stitch
                 I drew the most fun swirls and loops around each little ‘bird family.’  I had the best time on the quilting.  I felt really relaxed – it was truly the easy part.  But I felt a little rushed, knowing that baby Shiloh’s arrival was imminent!  I was still quilting we sat in the hospital, anxiously awaiting the baby.  I was still quilting after the baby was born! I actually took a little break knowing I hadn’t quite made it to that day.  But finally, when little Shiloh was 6 days old, I finished the quilt.  Since the responsible parents wouldn’t want to risk SIDS, we are making the quilt a wall hanging until Shiloh turns 1.  The front of the quilt has a border, and the layers came together with the assistance of some matching green bias tape. Love! So helpful.  I used a thick bias tape on the back to serve as a long loop so that the quilt can be hung on the wall either with a dowel rod or a curtain rod. 
Hungry little birdies!

When everything was stitched on good, I washed it to give it a good cleanse from my anxious, hard-working sweaty hands, and to get rid of pencil lines.  I was worried about it unraveling (as if!) and washed it on delicate.  That did not get rid of pencil lines.  My ever-helpful MIL advised me to dilute some detergent with water, and rub it over the pencil lines with a toothbrush.  She also told me that the next cycle up from delicate would be just fine, my solid quilt would not unravel. She was correct on both accounts!  All fluffy and fresh, I grabbed my quilt and delivered it to the cutest possible recipient alive.  And if you are still reading up to this point, even if you skimmed just for photos and caught this sentence, you deserve a medal! 
Backing, bias tape, border, and front

I loved making this quilt.  I have found that I really, truly enjoy sewing by hand.  I’m starting to get into embroidery, for the wonderful designs, the array of colors in the threads, and the calming handwork it provides.  I’ve taken a short break from any major projects, but I did sneak in this sweet little birdie embroidery piece! (Am I destined to sew only birds for the rest of my life?)
lovely pattern from Pinterest (Needlework board)

My one attempt at artistic photography
Stay tuned for more fun, and likely shorter, posts… but don’t hold your breath!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Throwin' you a bone

It's been a little while. (Anyone surprised?) So I thought I'd throw you a bone. Or 15.

15 Random Rachel Facts

·      I wish I could be BFFs with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. We would have some crazy awesome times and laugh all day. (dreamed about Tina Fey last night, and we hit it off. Yeah, we would totally be buds)
·      I’ve known that I was going to marry my husband since I was 16, but I didn’t admit it to myself until 18, and I didn’t admit it to the world until 19 (and I didn’t get married until 21, so I think I did a dang good job ‘waiting’).
·      I also wish I could be/could have been/could ever be BFFs with Anne, from Anne of Green Gables; though she was fictional, she was amazing.
·      I have always liked/loved the color yellow, unlike most people today, who like yellow because it is trendy, and I hate trends. I will dislike something just because it is trendy, even if I secretly like it.
·      I love to do “domestic” things, like cook/bake, sew, knit, and almost anything with pretty fabrics. I’m starting to think I like fabrics better than the crafts or things I make with the fabrics.
·      I would love to own a teacup pig someday
·      I miss my husband every moment he is away from me.
·      I recently got into a sub-category of fiction, about knitting. I call it Knit-Lit.
·      Pet Peeve: I think it’s stupid when people who used to be roommates still call each other Roomie. All. The. Time. Hellooooo, you’re not roomies anymore, you’re just regular friends. Use other names.
·      Another random genre of books I like, of which I can’t think of a clever title, are books that incorporate recipes into every chapter. One I really liked is called “The Gastronomy of Marriage.” Just bought another such-like book at the close out sale at Border’s called Edible Stories
·      I spend more time thinking about and planning new crafts to do and wanting to buy more materials at the craft store than I do actually crafting. I need to change that.
·      I wrote in a journal at least once a week, if not every day, from the ages 15-18. It helped with my teenage angst quite a bit, and being in the habit of writing helped develop my poetry too. When I got to college I gradually stopped journaling, but for the last few months I’ve started up again, and it feels good. Journaling is my version of therapy.
·      Another pet peeve: utensils scraping on plates. Not just the normal diner clatter you hear in movies, but the awful, I just wanna tear me ears off scraping. It’s worse than nails on a chalkboard for me.
·      I have an obsession with aprons. I’m now up to 4; 2 long, 2 little waist aprons. And I sewed my very first little waist apron for my new sister-in-law this summer, blog post to come (so I say!).
·      A few things I hold true:
o    I believe that feel-good music should be blasted from car sterios, not rap or heavy metal
o    I believe that my grandma and I are kindred spirits; I think she is brave, and I admire her
o    I believe that I am connected in some way to my future children; to me, they are tangible, though they do not yet physically exist. I love them, and I feel that when I meet them, a piece of my heart will become complete

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Recent Absence

My Recent Absence

When I created my blog, I envisioned myself being a good blogger. Updating weekly, taking step-by-step pictures of every project, using clever phrasings to draw the reader in. Obviously I have sorely failed. But on a good note, it’s because I was busy living life! This past year has seen me through my first ever full time job, and that really took it out of me. Being a full time student was busy and stressful, but being a working woman was a whole different ballgame. After working all day, I seldom had the energy to do more than park it on the couch.

But when I did get off the couch…

-I worked 40, sometimes 45, hours a week at my job (see the previous post). I’m very proud of what I accomplished for Tulsa Transit. It was a blessing to be there, and a very good first job for me.

-I spent time with my friends! I love being a hostess.

-I cooked and created recipes. Which my husband happily ate.

-I got a baby guinea pig who died within 5 days from a sad small animal disease called Pasturella. A few weeks later I ‘adopted’ a friend’s guinea pig, who is still with me. I call her my garbage disposal, because she eats all of the peels and clippings of my fruits and veggies.

Say 'hi' Miss Gwinny!

-I inherited some gorgeous fabrics from my grandma (still living) and designed some fun hair clips. Soon(ish) I will start selling them on Stay tuned!

-I took up knitting. I have proudly completed 1 and ¾ scarves so far.

-I survived the Tulsa Blizzard of 2011. And when everyone else was getting wonderfully lazy days off work, I was being picked up by the company caravan to spend all day on the phone carefully explaining why snow in the streets keeps the buses from running regularly. (uh, duh?)

-I spent 80 hours in a small car with my in-laws. And I still love them!

-I joined a wonderful ladies’ bible study where we used John Ortberg’s small group study books. We had a blast and learned a lot.

-I taught 2 precious girls piano lessons in their homes on Sunday afternoons.

-I dragged my grandma’s (ancient!) bicycle from Fort Worth to Tulsa in my little car and took all of 3 rides before I let it slowly rust and gave it away at the Dumpster Free-for-all.

-My husband and I cancelled our cable in hopes that it would give us more free time for our hobbies. In addition to that, it gave us more free time to become addicted to Netflix.

And MOST recently:

-I resigned from my job at Tulsa Transit because…

-Schuyler graduated from ORU, Suma Cum Laude(!) on April 30th, our lease was up May 1st, and we packed up and moved back to our hometown of Fort Worth.

Proud wifey, that's me!

-We’ve been here about 6 weeks now, and it has been so great being with all of our family again.

So, I’ve started a brand new chapter in my life. Left behind some precious people in Tulsa that I am really missing. Looking forward to what’s in store, but not quite sure what that will mean. And I can’t make any promises, but I plan on being a better blogger this time around! In my current jobless state, I have actually had time for my hobbies. I’ve started a small shade garden, baked (too much!) and sewed my first apron. Stay tuned for posts with pictures of those endeavors.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My New Job!

Only 2 posts in, and I've already been a neglectful blogger. But, I have a good reason - I have a new job! I was hired by the Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority on July 29th 2010. May that day ever go down in history. Prior to that date, I was an unemployed unhappy bum, searching desperately for ANY job. I had something lined up for myself after graduation that fell through 2 weeks after I started it. Long story short - I was thrown into the job search completely unprepared and unaware of how hard it is to find a job these days. If you have a job, be thankful. If you don't have a job, keep praying and search, your time will come!

So here's the job title (deep breath): Bilingual Call Center Customer Service Representative and Hispanic Community Liaison. (exhale) Basically, it's 2 jobs in one. I work in the Tulsa Transit call center, as a customer service rep, but I'm also bilingual. (Para espanol, oprima el numbero 2 - that's me!) AND I'm the Hispanic Community Liaison, which is the most exciting thing to me. They're starting a new program of outreach to the Hispanic community, which involves spreading more awareness about our services to the Hispanic community, and teaching people how to use the buses to their advantage. In the last 3 weeks, I've been attending meetings with business people who are connected to the Hispanic community. Everyone has been so excited about what Tulsa Transit can do for that community. I've been helping to translate some of our informative literature into Spanish. I've also been manning a booth for the last several weeks at the Admiral Flea market. It's been great to get out into the Hispanic community, speak some Spanish with people, meet new contacts, and find out ways that the company I work for can enrich the lives of Hispanic people in Tulsa.
Not sure if it sounds cool or interesting to any of you, but it's been great for me! It's my first full time job - I call it my "I'm-a-big-kid-now" job. My co-workers are pretty cool, for the most part. They've been very helpful to me with my myriad of questions. I feel like my brain has been completely stuffed full of information since I started the job. One of the fun things I get to do is use a walkie-talkie and say "10-4." But that's just a side note.
I wanted to share some of the funny and interesting conversations I've had on the phones. A lot of the time, I'm on the phones answering calls (alllllll dayyyyyy). Half the calls are from people who use the city buses, with questions about what bus to take from Point A to Point B, what time the bus they want arrives, etc. The other half of the calls are to schedule appointments with our Lift Program. That's our paratransit service; it's a curb-to-curb rideshare for mentally and/or physically disabled individuals. We schedule their trips in the computer system. I've been making a list of some of the things people have called me, some sweet, some weird. I've been called baby, sweetie, honey, sugar, any other term of endearment. Some of them are great, from the elderly ladies scheduling their trips to the doctor and to Walmart. Some of them are from smarmy guys who think that my sweet voice is an invitation for come ons. I have to mute the phone to go "gaaahhhhh!!! Grossgrossgross!" And then politely, "Ok, sir, well you have a nice day now buhbye." I've also had a guy tell me I'm just a white woman who doesn't know how to communicate with black people. I'll have him know that a black man the day before thought I was such a good communicator that he was moved to ask me if I had a boyfriend. In your face.
I know I'm getting totally wordy here, and any readership I had before has now fallen off, but anyway - that's my job, in a really big, weird nutshell. I'll keep you posted - today I went to a luncheon put on by the Greater Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and came in contact with a woman who is going to do a televised interview with me this coming Monday! The show is called Temas en Tulsa, which means Topics (or Subjects/themes) in Tulsa. I'm soooo excited and nervous! Not sure what channel it comes on yet. For everyone who prayed for me and encouraged me during my job search, thank you so much. God has blessed me exceedingly beyond what I had hoped for. This is an opportunity for me to serve people who kindness and effeciency, and I really appreciate what I have in front of me.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sewing Project

I received a sewing machine recently, but haven't really done much with it so far. When Schuyler's home, I always want to be with him, since we're not together all that much. But last night, Schuyler suggested that we bring my sewing machine table into his office, so he could work on computer stuff and I could sew, and we'd still feel like we were spending time together. Great solution!

The project I'm working on right now is a birthday present for my sister Emily. She bought a table cloth for her dining room table, but when she brought it home and tried it out in her dining room, it didn't seem ideal. So we decided that for her birthday, I will turn that table cloth into several pillows to use in her bedroom. She bought a couple of square-ish soft pillows for me to make pillowcases for, and I bought some cotton stuffing and some black linen to make some smaller pillows with the rest of the cloth. Last night I only got around to one pillow, because ironing the cloth took soooo long! I think next time I'll just cut out my squares that I need, and then iron each one, because this is high-wrinkle material.

So here's what the first pillow looks like.

Here I am squeezing the pillow to show how soft and comfy it is.

Close up of the cool bird print.

Updates to come on this pillow project!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Expectations vs. Reality

Education is important in this country. You go to kindergarten with you're 5 years old, sometimes Pre-K before that. And if you keep going, you're in school for the next 13 years. Then comes college. Four years, if you're lucky. So for the last 17 years of my life, I have been a Student. That has been my official title. I've added a few other sub-titles since entering college, like Part-Time Teacher, and Wife. Those have been good titles. But now, for the first time ever... I am no longer a Student. My life is my own! Or is it...

The reason we go to college is to prepare for our careers. I've spent so much time following my passions, because I believe that's what's really important in life. I completed a double major in Music and Spanish. And yes, I did get the same comments over and over again. "So, what are you gonna do when you graduate?" Or, "How are you gonna make any money??" Valid questions. Questions that I'm still answering, nearly three months after the big graduation ceremony.

What I expected of my life post-grad, and what I've experienced so far haven't quite matched up. I expected to graduate, feel a huge sense of liberation and relief, and start a great job that paid well and fulfilled me as a person. Without going into too much detail, I did have a job lined up that fell through, and I've been scrambling ever since. When you're a kid, the adults tell you that you can do anything you want to do! How wonderful! But when you're an adult, life gets in the way of the things you dreamed about doing. You get an apartment or a house, a car, cell phones, and a myriad of other bills, all demanding payment every month. Suddenly your main job requirement is that your paychecks cover your monthly bills.

This summer I've had my first taste of full-time job searching. It hasn't been my favorite way to spend time, by a long shot. Plus, every employer I meet with acknowledges the fact that this is a terrible time to be a new grad searching for a job. We all know that the economy isn't at its best. But I'm young, and I will prevail. I've gotten a few job leads, and with any luck (and blessings and favor!!) my next post will be about my new job.

What I want from life at this stage is a job that I can feel somewhat proud of doing, that has decent hours and decent pay. I want to come home from work, and enjoy the magic of free time that doesn't involve completing homework assignments. I plan on posting about the things that I end up doing with my free time, like cooking and sewing, which are my main hobbies. (The sewing is a brand new venture, though.)

So here it is - my life post-grad. It's been quite interesting so far, and I'm sure it will stay interesting!