projects in progress

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:: Second Milo on the needles :: Snow Pixie hats on the cutting table ::

:: Other project-themed books ::

These handful of days have been off-kilter. Following an unprecedented string of good days, in which everything seemed to flow, the boys (and myself, no doubt) trudged through the last two days with low energy, sapped patience, and a general grumpy malaise. 

This time, though, I have a peace about it. I've come to expect these days, just as I expect the perfect ones. It even feels, dare I say ... comforting. I feel grateful to pass through very human situations together as a family; grateful to learn about each other and let each other experience a full spectrum of feelings. 

It also feels good to hop into a project in the creative space that opens up after a patch of ho-humness. There's plenty to do in the studio between now and Christmas, and the gift-making is kicking into gear. I'm also really liking my circular saw, and have my eyes on some of the projects in this book once the chicken coop is done.

And - I can't recommend highly enough Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert. It speaks to me right where I am as parent just starting off on the homeshooling journey, which can be totally daunting if you see all the ideas that can be done out there on the internet and all of the facts that can be passed on to a child. Here's an exceprt:

"Try to avoid pulling attention away from your child's project (his deepest interest) with random, one-off activities. Save casual field trips and similar activities for times between projects. The less you distract your child with random activities and interruptions, the more engaged and focused he'll be. You're giving him the opportunity to stay longer with what he cares about most; you're giving him the chance to build something really meaningful." 

Love.

Back to my projects. Have a wonderful weekend!


a chat with fat quarter shop & hurricane relief

Thanks to Chelsey at the Fat Quarter Shop for stopping by to chat about my booth! The other first place booth winners are interviewed, too - and the Sew Liberated segment starts at 3:10.

And ...

I wanted to share with you that Mariah of Playful Learning is donating 100% of the proceeds from the sales of any of her (wonderful) e-courses to hurricane relief between now and November 20. Learn more here. How generous is that?!

Another opportunity to provide for those in the storm's path - donate quilts or blankets to keep folks warm - details on the Fat Quarter Shop's blog.


they hammer in the morning...

... in the evening ... all over our land. Oh, it's darn cute around here, friends, let me tell you! Both Finn and Lachlan are ever-so-enthusiastic with our chicken coop building project. 

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building the chicken coop

building the chicken coop

building the chicken coop

building the chicken coop

building the chicken coop

Our pint-sized tools, work gloves, safety glasses and tool belt are from For Small Hands. Everything is the right size for Finn, (who hit the three-and-a-half marker on Saturday) and Lachlan enjoys using the safety glasses and hammer, too.

The bones of the coop are set - now for the roof (and everything else.) So far, so good - we're using the Garden Coop plans, and they're easy to follow for us woodworking novices. 

I'm not sure if you read the comments on Friday's post announcing the arrival of the chicks, but I have to share a conversation my mom had with Finn while they were driving home:

Mima: How are the new chicks, Finn?

Finn: Good! We can hold them if we sit on the floor and put our hands like this (two little hands cupped together).

(Pregnant pause.)

But we cannot throw them...(another pause)...Laquinn (Lachlan) doesn't know this.

Goodness! Must teach Lachlan not to throw the chicks, I suppose! The chicks are still alive and thriving, despite Finn's lack of high esteem for his brother's behavior. :)


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tweet!

tweet!

Six baby girls joined our family yesterday! Four Ameraucanas and two Barred Plymouth Rocks - names for which are being thought up by me and the surreptitiously planted in the mind of Finn. If it were up to him, I do believe our chicks would have names like "tree" or "car" or whatever else he sees at any given moment. If it were up to Lachlan, we'd call them all "chicken coop," his new favorite phrase.

It feels like I've mentally had chickens for a long time - since we lived in Mexico and had neighbors' chickens free-ranging in our yard. I've owned chicken books for years. I always knew we'd eventually get a backyard flock, but it wasn't until now that everything fell into its proper place. The boys don't self-destruct if I do something else for a little while. They get along and entertain each other. We have enough money to buy wood and a circular saw to build a coop, and we get enough sleep so that using the circular saw is no longer just plain foolishness! We're going to be "cooped up" for the next few weekends in order to focus on building a home for our little ladies. Here's to mastering power tools!


autumn snapshots

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Autumn started out with baby nakedness, though we seem to be in full-clad balaclava season now. (I love these hoods, and so do the boys - they keep their necks so cozy! I think some mama made knitted versions are called for.) In between quilt market preparations, we had a month full of apples, leaves crunching under foot, and seasonal art projects.

We made a weekend camping trip to the mountains to visit Sky Top Orchard and came back with baskets overflowing with ripe, red apples. We poured over The Artful Year: Autumn Crafts and Recipes, and loved our pumpkin waffles, pumpkin play dough, and other leaf-related art projects. We had friends over for a campfire and Lachlan tasted his first s'more (which he didn't finish - apparently he prefers spicy thai peanut and vegetable soup, the leftovers of which he gobbled up for breakfast the other day!)

My knitting needles are clicking away. All the winter clothes have been dug out from their summer hiding spots. Rays of golden light angle low and fall onto my typing fingers, through the bright windows in my studio, quiet for one more day before six little chicks make it their temporary home. 

Things are feeling just right.


back in the saddle

First things first - I can't start writing before I send out a heartfelt thank-you to my dear friend Charlotte, who kept my blog filled with beautiful pictures and thoughtful words while I was getting ready for Quilt Market. The Beatles were right - you can get by with a little (or a lot - in my case!) help from your friends.

And thank you to you, dear readers, for understanding my need to be absent from this space in order to spend any "extra" time I had focused on my boys. It's all a juggling act, and, for me at least, I just have to cross things off of my list and not look back. These boys are only little once.

Quilt Market Fall 2012

But the sewing gig? Not too bad. My Quilt Market right-of-passage complete, I can now reflect on the logistical nightmare of it with a touch of comedic hindsight. Oh my, I do hate logistics and  event planning. This I now know about myself. The late shipment of my booth? The "missing" 1x4 studs on one section of my booth wall? Golly, man. Once again, though, my "at-least-we're-not-in-the-hospital" mantra got me through just fine. Lack of logistical finesse in type B personalities is always made up for by a "whatever, it will all work out" attitude to snags in the road.

Enough of the getting there and back part, though. You probably want to know about what happened once the Sew Liberated booth was set up, right? Here it is!

Quilt Market Fall 2012

This was the fun part - the decorating! You can also see four of my five new patterns on display - the blue dress, the colorful quilt, the white apron, and the yellow top. I assure you that they do have more creative names than color descriptions! They're due out by January 1st. I'll certainly let you know more once we're closer to the release date. And check out my logo poster, c/o my neighbors at Spoonflower - did you know they now do custom printed wallpaper? This stuff is great, let me tell you. It worked superbly for my "kraft paper" logo, although I'll likely choose another design for a wall in my house ...

Quilt Market Fall 2012

Yep! It's true! Sew Liberated is taking sewing patterns into the next generation with free video tutorials for our newest garment patterns. You'll get to watch my amazing intern, Danica, sew up everthing from the first to the last step!

Quilt Market Fall 2012

Just after the booth prize committe showed up an awarded us with a 1st prize in the single booth category, I posed with the giganticus ribbon and the nifty plaque (that would find a home next to my trophy for the free throw tournament I won in 6th grade, if I still had it ...) But wow, I totally wasn't expecting this! There were so many other booths there that were utterly beautiful and I'm sure they deserve this prize more than I do.

Quilt Market Fall 2012

I can't go on, though, without mentioning Kim. Kim Ventura has been working at Sew Liberated for several years now, and I can most certainly say that, without her help, Quilt Market wouldn't have been possible. (And a lot of other things wouldn't have been possible either - see that quilt there? She's the genius behind the quilt.) Kim stepped up and, though we'd worked together for years, we'd never met in person. (She's in Ohio and has helped out with sample sewing and techical writing since she tested the Schoolhouse Tunic back in the day!) She got on a plane and flew to Houston, helped set up the booth, introduce Sew Liberated to fabric shop owners who we hadn't met before, and just kept me in such good spirits throughout the five days we were in Houston. Such a kind, thoughtful, creative person! (I'm bummed this picture didn't turn out great, but it makes me happy just looking at it - thank you, Kim!)

Quilt Market Fall 2012

Here I am with Christine Haynes, the easy going and fun sewing teacher, fellow Craftsy instructor and pattern designer! Christine works at Sew L.A. - a great sewing studio in Los Angeles.

Quilt Market Fall 2012

I met lots of very lovely people at Market, including mother-and-daughter team April and Anita, who own Sew To Speak in Columbus, OH. We had dinner with Rae, hobnobbed with fabric companies, and got to know many other amazing designers. I only with I had had more time to take more pictures of other booths! It's a real visual explosion, this Quilt Market thing. You leave with way more things on your "to-make" list than you had when you arrived.

I'm pleased to say that everything is now unpacked, my studio has been spiffed up for some actual sewing, and things are back to normal once again.

Well, if you count bringing home six baby chicks on Thursday as normal, that is!


Fun and Fundraising

Hi, Charlotte here again!  Meg is still busy preparing for Quilt Market.  I'm thrilled to be posting again and sharing my thoughts with all of you, her kind and wonderful readers.  Can I let you in on a secret?  Meg's Quilt Market booth is AMAZING.  I got to see it last weekend and WOW!  There's no doubt she is a designer to the core.  I sure hope she posts pictures after the big weekend!  You won't believe it's just a bit of plywood.

Last weekend we visited a lovely farm fundraiser to support Eyes, Ears, Nose and Paws.  We initially went because they had an afternoon of hayrides, games, entertainers and food all included in one $15 adult ticket, and kids were only $5.  This organization trains service animals, but we weren't fully aware of that until our arrival, when we met the lovely dogs.

Our beloved dog Abby has been gone from us for just over a year.  She was amazing; the best dog I've ever seen.  She fetched the paper, she never barked unless it was absolutely called for, and she let kids love on her without complaint even when they were rough.  She was perfectly trained and very mannerly.  She was my baby before my human babies came along and for a long while we couldn't even think of getting a new dog.  But now some time has gone by and we miss having a dog in the mix.  Even my husband, who is not a pet lover, has agreed that a furry friend should join us.  But maybe we won't get a pet.  Maybe it's time for us to consider a puppy with a higher purpose.  Meet EENP.

After learning more about their services, we jumped into the fun!  Free ice cream!  Bubbles!  Face painting!

Have you met Kaylynn yet?  This is my oldest.  She'll be 10 in a week!

And can you believe it?  We won TWO of the door prizes!  

 This hand-painted candle and a nice compact flashlight.  I never win these kinds of things!  Then the kids wanted to get face paint.  I'm not sure why they chose cats at a dog event, but we went with it.

Yes, that's me.  The whole gang's here: Mama, Kenzie, KC, Kristin, Kaylynn. 

Hug your dogs extra hard for me today, ok?  


Art Co-Op

Guest blogger Charlotte, here again!  I'm constantly inspired by Meg's beautiful art ideas for children, so today I thought I'd show you what my kids have been working on with their friends.

This girl isn't mine! It's our friend, Neela.

Two or three times a month, my kids plus three other families get together and do art projects.  There are thirteen children altogether and they begin participating around age 3.  Our oldest is 10.  They are all engaged with the work, though the younger kids skip the more formal lesson portion and join in during the messy parts. This week we did print making while studying the Impressionists, as shown above.  It was also a Gallery Day, where we display their work from the month.

The materials for this week's project weren't cheap, but since there were four families and not any more ink or brayers needed than for just one child, it ended up being fairly reasonable.  We typically trade off teaching and bringing materials, and it all seems to even out in the end.  We are using the Joyce Raimondo series of books, which have great projects that are grouped by type of art, such as Impressionism, Pop Art, and Surrealism.  Each week we do just one artist and two or three projects.  We typically supplement with a few library books about the artist as well, but the planning itself is not difficult.  

Although we use these books in a group setting, they are great for family projects at home too.  Some of them only require paper and crayons or materials from the recycle bin.  

What art books for children do you enjoy most?


this is wool

Hey all! Meg here, popping in to share with you the work of a dear, long-time reader, Mary Jo of Five Green Acres. Shepherdess and fiber afficionada, wonderful mama and all-around cool person, Mary Jo is launching her This is Wool yarn tour today to coincide with the debut of her hand-spun, plant dyed fibers from her backyard flock of sheep. Take a moment to watch this beautiful video she put together documenting the "birth" of her yarn.

This is wool. First Harvest: Backyard from Mary Jo, FiveGreenAcres on Vimeo.

Meg: That video makes me want sheep in baaaad way, Mary Jo! :) Puns aside, what have you found to be the most rewarding and most difficult aspect of shepherding a flock in your own backyard?

Mary Jo: Ah, there are so many answers to this question.  Lambing is an obvious answer, as it's easily the most rewarding and by far the most difficult.  This spring left us with an orphan bottle lamb - Munson - and he surely fits the bill, entering our lives while we struggled, unsuccessfully,  to keep from losing his mother.  He's become so deeply bonded to us that he's now more like a pet dog than a sheep.  But this year, I'm inclined to answer this question with regards to the drought that defined our summer.  Our sheep normally spend more than half the year out on pasture, eating the grass and weeds that grow effortlessly, for free.  I strategically move them through the couple of acres, enclosed in a portable electric net fence, to let them chew down the grasses just far enough to stimulate their lush regrowth.  By the time they've made the first pass through the entire pasture, the grasses have cycled back and the loop continues, unless, of course, the grass doesn't grow back, due to a lack of rain.  This was the situation I found myself in this summer.  By the beginning of July, I had to locate some hay to buy (a very expensive alternative to feeding them free grass all summer) and worry about the impending shortage of hay to get them through the winter.  The basic question of how to feed my sheep consumed me all summer, and I took to watching the sky like a farmer, cursing the dry heat as it burned my pasture to a crisp.  The mounting stress and added expense called a lot of this endeavor into question and I found myself wondering more than once what it all was for.  Just as we were down to the last bales of hay we had for July, some friends called with an offer to let our sheep graze their back lot, overgrown and not accessible by mower.  "YES!" I shrieked, "ABSOLUTELY!"   So off they went, and we all heaved a sigh of relief, knowing they'd be fed for a few weeks at least.  But an eerie quiet descended on our Acres with them gone; it felt empty here.  I visited them every two days to move them to new grass, and we were mutually thrilled to see each other.

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A few weeks into this arrangement, I spent the weekend at a Sheep and Wool festival.  That weekend was steeped in all things fiber - I took classes each day, and the booths upon booths of gorgeous wool and fiber were tremendous inspiration.  But I found myself lingering the most near the sheep barns, strolling through each morning to visit the show sheep, whose baa-ing was the first sound I heard upon waking.  It made me tremendously homesick - not for home as it was, but our home with the flock intact, grazing out back.  I meandered without realizing where I was headed and found myself in the festival's lambing barn during each break between classes, and I felt that pang of longing for more lambs the way women feel the calling to have another baby.  It became abundantly clear that weekend that I wasn't interested in living without sheep, drought or not.  Soon after, the flock had finished their contracted work at the friends'  lot, and were blissfully reinstated at home.  Their first night back was euphoric - we enjoyed one of the last picnic suppers of the season with them milling about in our backyard. 

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Meg: How is daily life different for a family raising sheep? What do you do to care for them, and in what ways are your children involved?

Mary Jo: The day-to-day of keeping sheep is simple; I'd contend more so than having dogs.  Moving the fence or tossing a bale of hay,  providing fresh water are about all they need.  I was most surprised to learn that they don't need a barn to keep them comfortable through the winter - their wool is more than adequate - but that barns are more for the convenience of the shepherd.  There's shearing time, usually during the spring, which also includes some grooming, and lambing time, which is quite involved but for a short duration.  We include the kids in small ways wherever we can - Isadora (7 yo) has made it a personal goal to befriend and "train" (whatever that means) each of the sheep personally.  She's begun to understand how they think and move, and has become instrumental in helping us get them corralled when needed.  The firsthand exposure to the life (and death) process of our sheep emerged as a valuable experiential learning opportunity, and a great asset to us as newly-minted homeschoolers. Errol, a scant month older than Finn (3), seems to have a natural affinity for animals; the careful attention and tenderness he displays towards the sheep, in particular, makes my heart smile.

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Meg: Tell us a little more about how you learned to process that amazing fleece - did you learn how to card, spin, and dye before or after you welcomed your sheep?


Mary Jo: Oh, the fiber/sheep learning curve seems steep at times!  There is SO. MUCH. to learn, and so many filters to process the information through - i.e. distinguishing "conventional" practices from holistic.  The grace of keeping sheep, however, is that the information need not be all in place before getting them.  We brought home our four starter ewe lambs and while they contentedly mowed down the grass and casually grew their wool, I steeped myself in books, classes, and local connections to other sheep people.  Even after this First Harvest shearing, I took my time deciding what to do with it and how.  There's no rush - wool keeps indefinitely if stored properly.  It's all been quite experimental, and will continue to be, but this level of learning would not be possible without having the sheep physically here.  Fiber festivals like the one I mentioned abound and were the best way for me to learn how to spin and card.  There are also many local guilds for spinning and knitting.  Ravelry has several boards on keeping sheep as well as in processing the fleece, but many folks utilize small mills to do a lot of the processing, which is also a great option.

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Whatever the mode of instruction, from class to guild to youtube tutorial, I have found "fiber people" to be, without exception, exceedingly generous in sharing their knowledge and genuinely devoted to perpetuating their craft.  They are among the nicest people I have ever met!

Thank you for sharing your passion and your craft with us, Mary Jo!


Passion

I appreciate all of the kind comments on my first guest post earlier this week.  It is a joy to share my thoughts and photos here with you, and I admit that it makes me want to fire up my own blog again!

I'd like to introduce you to my daughter, Kristin.  She's almost 8, and she loves to swim.  And by love, I mean crack-of-dawn, happily-sets-the-alarm sort of dedication.  Four days a week or more, she swims thousands of yards for the sheer joy of it.  

She has big goals, this daughter of mine.  Of course the Olympics are her far-off dream, but she has some shorter term goals too, like qualifying in all four strokes during the summer meets and winning her age group.  We support her, cheer her on, and hope for her success by driving to all of those practices, shelling out cash for coaching and team fees, and helping her to set realistic intermediate goals.  And now for the confession.  I never imagined us as a sports-oriented family.  Not in a million years.  Science?  Sure.  Art?  Maybe.  But competitive sports!??  Other than being vaguely aware of the Olympics, we don't watch sports as a family.  I thought we used sports as a fun way to get some exercise and practice coordination and teamwork skills.  We only tried swim team in the first place because the lessons were so much cheaper than the traditional weekly offerings!

We are homeschoolers, and at the start of summer I write a one page overview of what we hope to accomplish in the coming school year.  There are specific goals like "polish handwriting" but most of the list contains more philosophical ideas.  Number two on the list is "Nurture individual interests with both time and resources as far as they want to go."  And that, my friends, is why we find ourselves at the pool most days, watching our little frog swim up and down and back again, grinning as she climbs out and asking for more.

(This picture cracks me up.  Because she's 4 feet?  And dives in constantly?  In the deeper end, of course, but still.  Bad joke, I know.  That's another thing to know about me, my bad sense of ironic humor!)

I hope my kids live their passions.  Just as Sew Liberated began with a woman who loved to sew and wanted to share her gifts with the wider world, so too can my own children find their gifts and turn them into their livliehood.  We can hope for a million dollar Wheaties box endorsement, but more realistically, swim coach, sports reporter, pool owner and even teenage lifeguard are all options for a girl who can't resist the water.

Explore.  Find your passion.  Then live it.  The work is light when your heart is in it.