My 11 year Quilt(s)

This. took. forever. A labor of love for ELEVEN YEARS and I am SO glad to be done and also so proud of myself for finishing. So many mistakes were made, so so so many, which is why this quilt did not turn out as one big 6ft x 7ft quilt but instead became TWO MINI QUILTS. I’ll get into that in a second. 🙂 Also DISCLAIMER: this post is SUPER long but it’s only fitting since it took me SO LONG to finish this quilt haha.

I’ve made a total of 2 (well I guess now 3) quilts in my life and each time I started a quilt it was during a summer when I didn’t/couldn’t go to summer camp. Each time I found myself so camp sick and wishing I was in the Shenandoah mountains, jumping in the river. I needed something to keep my mind busy so I wouldn’t go crazy from boredom. Lesson learned: summer camp is more consistent fun than ANYTHING ELSE you can do in the summer, always choose to go! So this quilt was my second project and I started it in the summer of 2010. I had just graduated undergrad from JMU and my graduate school program started immediately after in May. All my college room mates moved out to go on with their grand adventures and I was in Harrisonburg in my very lonely townhouse. I couldn’t go to camp that summer since my grad classes started in May lasted through July before picking back up in late August. So I decided to pick up a new project and this quilt was born. I sat down with a pen and graph paper and sketched out the design. I wanted it to be a full sized throw so I did all the math calculations for how big each block would need to be in order for the final design to be 6ft by 7ft. I picked out five green fabrics and five yellow fabrics and started to cut! First mistake made.

Now you should know that this entire quilt, from start to finish, was one mistake after the next. I nearly gave up and threw EVERY BIT of it away multiple times. The first big mistake I made was not understanding basic quilting techniques. I thought that I would sew all of the diamonds together and so I cut out the large diamonds before really figuring out how I’d piece them together or do the edges…. So yeah, I have TONS of precut squares of EVERY fabric for this quilt just sitting in bags upstairs… because they were the wrong size once I finally figured out how to do it properly…. Mistake number 2: I bought more fabric and cut MORE fabric for the new pieces instead of just making the old pieces work…. (so many face palms here).

Well then the quilt lay dormant for a few years because I realized I didn’t actually know how to piece these together. Then I met a friend teaching at Quioccasin Middle School who also liked to quilt and was far more experienced than me! She invited me over to her house and we had quilting dates were we hung out and did projects together. In all honesty, without her encouragement and guidance, I would have NEVER finished this or actually enjoyed the process. Well I finished about half of the blocks and then, I got busy with life. I’d pick it up here and there and do a little bit more before putting it back down again. What I realize now is that Alex in her 20s didn’t dig the meticulous process that is quilting. I didn’t love having to sew and then iron and then cut and then sew and then iron and then cut and on and on and on it went. It was too slow for me then. So even when I wanted to finish it I just couldn’t get enthusiastic enough to do it. And then I was doomed. My sewing machine died.

Yes it’s true. The sewing machine I got when I was in 3rd grade and had ever since, called it quits on me. I tried taking it to the sewing machine doctor to get it fixed but was ultimately told that the machine I had had run out it’s life and wasn’t fixable. So that was that. My pieces of this quilt sat in a box for the next 5 years traveling from house to house to house. In grand total this quilt has moved with me to 10 different homes. WOW.

Flash forward to Mother’s day of last year when I was pregnant with Finley and my parents gifted me a new sewing machine for my first pre-baby mother’s day. I now had the opportunity to finish this quilt! I didn’t have any more excuses. The reality though was that I honestly didn’t want to finish it, I just didn’t like it anymore. I fell out of love with the fabrics and couldn’t get myself geared up to finish. The real reason I finished this quilt was because I made myself do it. I have three (or more if we’re being honest) projects that I am SO excited to start and I looked at this big box of fabric and half pieced quilt and said “I’m not allowing myself to do any of the fun projects I want until I finish this d*#$ quilt.”

So with a new found motivation I sat down and BUSTED IT OUT! I mean really! The quilt in total is 42 blocks and before this moment I had finished 20 of them. In TWO WEEKS I finished the other 22 blocks and was ready to piece the whole thing together. I was PUMPED! I instra-storied the whole layout of the big quilt, organized the rows, sat down to start pinning and realized the biggest mistake of the entire eleven year project. The blocks didn’t fit together.

Yup. All of the blocks that I started on my old machine measured 12in x 12in (almost) exactly. All of the new blocks from the past two weeks… measured 11in x 11in (or even 11.5in x 11.5in)…. Yup. It’s because my old machine had a quarter inch seam presser foot and I assumed that the edge of my new machine’s presser foot would also yield a 1/4 inch seam… No such luck. It instead was 3/8inch seam. And yes, the 1/8th of an inch did make that much of a difference. Full discloser moment: I did notice the mistake earlier on in the process but that that maybe all of the fabric had collectively shrunk… at the same rate… over the course of the last eleven years.. Yeah, my brain was off that day.

You might ask – “So what? What’s the big deal?” Well with the blocks being off by an inch all around meant the points on the diamonds didn’t line up and the edges didn’t match. Huge deal with a HUGE headache of solutions that was WAY MORE work. “UGGGGHHHH” + tons of curse words was my response. I literally sat slumped in my chair staring at the pieces for 30 minutes thinking “Welp, I’m done. I’m throwing this all away.”

I reached out to my old quilting buddy friend for ideas and she was such a help problem solving with me. And then I realized the answer. Just split them up and make two tiny quilts. It was almost evenly split with 12x12s and 11x11s and so I took what would fit together and made two separate baby quilts. Each quilt used 15 blocks, totaling 30 of the 42 blocks. Blocks that were too small, wouldn’t fit, or in a fabric I no longer loved, got tossed to the side and I only focused on what I could make work. The other 12 pieces became scrap for practice or are still being stored in my attic. (Shout out to anyone wanting them! They are yours for the low low cost of FREE!). Years before I had bought new yellow and green fabric to use for the quilt instead of older fabric I no longer liked and it happened to be just the right size for the backing fabric. Within a few weeks I finished both!

With a TON of broken needles, A LOT of cursing, the wrong walking foot purchased, a trip to the sewing machine doctor, and mistakes made EVERY STEP OF THE WAY, I finally finished, eleven years later. With the final touches of quilt labels hand sewn onto the backs and a vinyl applique of our camp’s symbol ironed on, they are done. Since I was on the green team, Finley is going to keep the quilt with the green backing and the quilt with the yellow backing is going off to Richmond for my camp friend Lauren’s baby girl Rook (Lauren was on the Buff (a version of yellow) team).

Now that they are done, I kind of love them. I also love that they are two separate quilts and will have a longer life in two homes. I love that the quilts are twins and can connect Finley and Rook, if they want of course :). I don’t typically brag on myself but I have to say that as many visible mistakes as there are (like 1/4 of a block being cut off the top), I’m really proud of these. I’m proud of them not because they are beautiful or perfect but because they are done. I didn’t let myself throw away years of work just because I was bored with it and now I have something to give away that represents finishing the job even when it’s not perfect and when you’re mentally over it. 🙂

So here are some pictures of the finished projects and of course some cutie pics of Finley too since she was my side kick through the final push! You won’t have to look too closely to see the mistakes haha but I think they’re pretty regardless. 🙂 Also it’s worth mentioning that the 30s version of me LOVES the slow meticulous process that is quilting. 🙂

Finley deserves an award for most patient self timer baby!
The two quilts compliment each other with opposite backings and bindings. Finley will keep the one with the green back and my good friend Lauren’s baby will receive the yellow backed one. I used Terrial Magic spray to stiffen fabric. Then I was able to print directly on the fabric to make the quilt labels. More mistakes were made when I didn’t set the ink with vinegar before sewing it on to the quilt. Of course it bled everywhere the second it got wet and I had to tear it out and redo the process…. (Face Palm).

Teal Green Maternity and Family Mini at Libby Hill Park

Nothing gets me more jazzed than talking about my days at summer camp Camp Mont Shenandoah! Singing the songs, reminiscing about old memories and traditions, and wishing for Sunday’s lunch with the BEST fried chicken you’ll ever have.  So when Priscilla, one of my counselors from camp, told me that her son Wyatt knew the camp songs and LOVED them – you better believe we started singing them.

We were at Libby Hill Park for our mini session sing/screaming about a girl who is silly enough to trust a crocodile and float him down the Nile river.  The best part besides the fact that Wyatt knew the words was that in the part when we sang “Well the croc winked his eye as she waved them all goodbye, wearing a HAPPY SMILE!” Wyatt just BEAMED with this huge smile and CLICK, we got the picture.  🙂   Most of the time taking pictures of little ones that can wiggle and move and RUN becomes a game of how can we distract you long enough to set up the shot and then make it a game to get you to smile so that I can CLICK, get the picture.   Well, this trick worked and it gave me so much joy singing camp songs in the middle of the day!  Win – Win.  Read More »

Austin Trip!

We have been friends since we were kids.  Camp friends, the kind that of friends that share a special bond.  You see camp friends are special.  We used to spend 6 weeks of the summer living in extremely tight quarters laughing, crying, sharing secrets and being absolutely ridiculous.  Then the summer would end and we’d go a whole year without seeing each other (well except for some birthdays).  Our AIM conversations, a few long distance phone calls and some care packages were the only ways we kept in touch until that fateful June day when we’d all run into a new cabin screaming with delight.  So now that we are older and stretched out all over the world our friendships are still in tact because well, we’re used to the distance.  Our friendships were never based on having to spend all our time together, every weekend or every lunch.  Our friendships were based on those giggly, truly free selves that we were able to be every summer away from the pressures of our home realities.

Last year we were able to see a fair amount of each other because we were all bridesmaids in Lauren’s wedding in May and then they were all bridesmaids in my wedding in August!  Two bachelorettes, showers, weddings and all the moments in between left us in September on a friendship high with no real plans for the next time we’d see each other.  Until we realized that this was the year of the 30.  The year we were all turning 30.  It had to be celebrated and what better way than together.  The only question was – where?

Originally we thought – Vegas!  It boasts of constant fun and plenty to do!  But, we quickly reminded ourselves that 5 days in Vegas might be a little too much fun and would inevitably be pricey.  So then we landed on Austin, Texas, quite randomly too.

This past week we traveled to Austin for our Spring Break shenanigans!  Brooksie came from Amsterdam, Elysia from LA, Natalie from NYC and Lauren and me (plus boys) from Richmond! We had the GREATEST time!  Austin is very unique and fun!  We all kept saying over and over again “I’m just so impressed!  Austin is so cool!”.  It has great food, plenty to do outdoors, is walkable and tourist friendly.  There are bike rentals everywhere, live music all the time, a beautiful river and tons of charm.  We couldn’t get over how dog friendly the city was and how clean, safe and accommodating it is.

I could keep writing and give you a true play by play of the entire trip but instead I’ll leave you with my top favorite things/moments of the trip (in no particular order):

  • The pontoon boat trip we took!  So great to be on the water all day and meet new people!  Plus there were some pretty great dance moments!
  • DINO Succulents!  The succulents in Texas are HUGE!  Really!  I kept calling them dino succulents because they were like the dinosaurs of the succulent world.
  • Mexican Food – Such good Mexican food everywhere you go!
  • Barbecue – If you go to Austin and don’t get brisket barbecue then you’re doing it wrong.  Cooper’s and Uncle Billy’s were amazing!  Wish we could have gone to Terry Black’s but it was packed.
  • THE BATS!!  We weren’t sure if we’d see them since it’s still pretty early in the year but we held out and got to see them!  I don’t think all of them were there yet but there were still THOUSANDS!  We lucked out that we were standing in exactly the right spot, the other half of the bridge couldn’t see them because of how dark it was.  I may have been the only one to appreciate this part of the trip but it was seriously cool!
  • Graffiti Park – It was dirty and very crowded but I’m glad we got to see it since they are apparently going to tear it down soon!  It was worth seeing although I don’t think I’d do it more than once.
  • Barton Springs – A natural spring that the city has sectioned off as a swimming hole for anyone (who pays just a few dollars).   There were tons of people with their dogs and kayak rentals to take out to the main river!  Inside of the pool where the spring is there are natural rocks at the bottom where endangered salamanders (The Barton Springs Salamanders) live!  They have lush grass hills to spread out on and since the springs are naturally 72 degrees year round there were plenty of people out swimming!  I’d love to do this again when it is a little warmer!
  • Quality Time – The best part of this trip was getting to check in with one another and spend some quality time together.  Our first dinner together we went around and talked about what we were going to leave behind in our twenties and what we wanted to take forward with us in our thirties.  The week was full of great meaningful check ins that keep us connected.  These conversations paired with tons of giggling made for a wonderful trip.

We had the best time!  Not only because we got to see a new city but more importantly because we got to celebrate a new phase of our lives and friendship together.  Cheers to our 30s!

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Cooper’s was FANTASTIC!  They literally cut the meat right in front of you, dip in sauce and serve!  They also have AMAZING mac & cheese.

We walked over to South Congress and stopped at the Yeti Flagship store – they have a bar with Yeti coolers as the seats!

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These two love each other!  Two peas in a pod!

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I seem to mind Maryland everywhere I go!

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It’s a really funky and unique city – with art EVERYWHERE!

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I LOVE the vibrant colors of the west!

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We visited the State Capital and had to take a picture with the statue tribute to the Alamo.  Sterling is related to William Barret Travis!

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We visited University of Texas!

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I wish I had more pictures of Barton Springs but nothing could do it justice – especially since it was so big!

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On the last day before our flight Sterling and I rolled our suit cases around Zilker Park.  This river access is right below Barton Springs and dumps into the main river.  So beautiful – bright green/blue water and tons of kayakers!

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