Friday, 15 February 2019


I want to share with you a sweet baby quilt I was commissioned to make for a customer. The family of baby Daisy are real modern Millie's so we thought they needed something more than pink bunnies for their newborn. My client trusted me to pick the fabrics and pattern but had two requests. One, was she wanted the baby's name on the quilt and two, to incorporate music. 

I was happy to oblige on both!

The pattern I used is an old faithful ... over sized hopscotch. I have lots of this True Blue Moda fabric kicking around and it fit really nice. 

I'm sorry my photography skills aren't better. The backing is a thick Shannon cuddle and the colour is called denim. I used quilter's dream batting (my fave!) and So Fine thread in Snow.

The panto is called Mozart and it fit the bill perfectly.  My client was tickled when I delivered her this quilt this week. Our little town has quite a thriving arts community. We have a wonderful community choir that actually performs in New York City if you can imagine! From Flin Flon to New York! My client and the new mom are heavily involved in the choir and local musical scene.

Now ... I'm fairly certain that this quilt has been gifted by now but if not ... shhhh ... don't approach any new baby Daisy's in town and comment on their beautiful blue quilt!

I still have a few yard of this ultra modern fabric. If you want anything stitched up, please contact me before its gone. These pieces are getting harder and harder for me to release!

Until next time ... may your stitches run straight, your pins stay sharp and your heart remains full of love.


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Letting Go ....

I made some sweet place mats for Valentine's Day this weekend. More of my stash busting adventure. I didn't want anything too mushy, too hearts and kisses, more so they would last more than a few weeks. We have a few birthdays to celebrate this month so lots of cake to eat at our large table.

The backing fabric I used is a wide back cotton I have on hand that mimics an old newspaper. The messages that popped out to me this weekend pierced an arrow through my heart. 

 'And the day came to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom'  ~ Anais Nin. 

Isn't this the truth ...... thank you for the life lesson Mr. Placemat. 

I quit my job this week!

I bet you didn't see that one coming ....

And just like that, I feel free.

Free of an invisible chain.

Now ...dear friends and patients ... I doubt much will change for my physically, but in my heart I am free! I have officially resigned from my position with the health authority. It has become too tight in the bud - more painful to stay than to bloom.

If you didn't know what was happening ... I have been 'on loan' to the local college for the past year and a half. Myself and another nurse were working on secondment to teach a nursing program.  Basically, the hospital loaned us to the college to help prepare a gaggle of new nurses.The college  paid the hospital and the hospital paid us. The greater good comes from going without two staff members in order to train 10 new ones. Pretty good pay off for the hospital, even though at times they ran short. Our nursing program has been very successful and the decision was made to make Flin Flon a permanent home for the nursing program.

I was asked to come on permanently last week and accepted.  This means I had to cut ties with the hospital, which was scary.

I know it was the right decision, but scary all the same. I am taking a very big pay cut and a cut in hours. I was top of the union pole and am now at the whim of my students when I get holidays ...but, I know in my heart this was the best thing for me. For my health, my family. My soul.

I knew my resignation would come 3 years ago when a senior manager waved his hand in my face and told me if I don't like here, they were hiring elsewhere ... I had a very trying day in the clinic with multiple, chronically ill patients who were all taking narcotics and sleeping pills. Every single person I saw that day, had a drug dependence. I was exasperated and sad. Me and another NP were discussing our day in the hall, trying to piece together a plan to help our community when we were stopped cold. We were told to keep writing prescriptions; that if we didn't do it, someone else would. We were told that if if we didn't like it to go somewhere else. She did. I stayed.

I stayed on and went home in tears nearly every day after. To be clear, I was not complaining about my job. I was not actually even speaking to that particular director. "If you don't like it, go somewhere else." Well, then.... OK ....there was more of course. Things I can't speak of here or out loud at all. Things that sting my heart. It is difficult to unbutter toast.

The January before Darby came to us, we were attacked by a patient. We had been terrorised and threatened by this man for months. Yelling, throwing things, threatening more ... Things like this happen, as odd and awful as that sounds. The event rattled me in a way I can't really describe.

 I was afraid to drive home that night. I couldn't sleep until I knew he was arrested.

What rattled me more was the blame. How the bigwigs pointed fingers at all of us ... girls ... women going about their day to day buisness helping otheres ...  how they turned the situation around to make it seem like we asked for it, didn't do something right with him to make him snap ... how I dropped the ball with his care.

 Bad people do bad things all the time. There was no blame to anyone but him ... but ....

I was really done then ....

I hope to stay on casual, once a week ... I will still see my patients and collect a paycheck from the clinic, but more on my terms and schedule. The biggest change is the invisible chain that is cut. Since starting at the college,  I have balance. I have time to enjoy my little girl. To quilt, bake bread, read murder mysteries and workout. More time to play with Lucey my long arm.

I have time to sit in the quiet. I have time and energy to breathe .... I have time to spend with my Papa. We were sure we would lose him last month and joyful to be able to celebrate another birthday with him. It was his 85th cake day yesterday.

Don't say yes when your heart says no

I have cut other tethers this month as well. Symbolic chains ... I put my fitbit in a drawer and donated my scale to goodwill. Good riddance. I discontinued all of my subscriptions and unsubscribed from as many newsletter and organisations as I could. I put my WW food tracker away and let go of my quilting planner. Imaginary chains all of them.

What dear friends, does any of this post have to do with quilting?!

Nothing, and everything.

It has taken me a long time to stand up and be honest to say what I 'want' to do, instead of what I 'should' do. I have been afraid to let people down my whole life and it was only me that suffered. I always chose the hardest path, reached for the highest apple and tried to people please everyone along the way.  I made baby quilts for people I didn't know or like because it was 'expected' that I do it ... though it broke my heart with each stitch. I stayed up to all hours of the morning sewing or baking in order to give 'the perfect handmade gift' because God knows that store bought just wouldn't do ...


Happy Valentine's Day to a healing heart.


Saturday, 2 February 2019

To Guild or Not to Guild?

Are you part of a quilt guild? Do you meet formally or informally with others? Some people think that guilds aren't for them. Hesitation to join them comes in different forms. They may think "I'm too new ... I don't know enough ..." others don't know what to expect from them or what kind of time and energy commitment is required. Some people may be shy to share their work, others physically unable to get out. Many communities don't have guilds anymore or the guilds that exist speak only to subspecialties such as modern guilds which may not be the right 'fit' for everyone.

What is a quilt guild?

A guild is an organised group of people with similar interests. In this case, fibre arts, or quilting. Most guilds meet regularly for formal meetings. My guild meets once a month for a formal meeting and sewing day and informally at least once a month. There is often a formal meeting with a collection of officers ... president, treasurer, secretary etc.

Meetings generally feature a presentation such as a lesson on a particular block or technique. There may be guest speakers. There is most definitely a show and tell portion to each guild meeting (my favourite part!) Guilds offer inspiration, workshops, fun events and shows. A good number of guild members are experienced quilters but there are also good numbers of newbies. To think guilds are only made up of elderly women is a myth. There is a real emergence of younger people turning traditional fabrics and blocks on their heads (I hope I'm one of them!)

How do you know if you are a right fit?

The best way is to try one out ... meet some members, attend meetings as a guest and ask lots of questions.

There are great benefits to belonging to a guild. I can't think of a better gang to be part of! (Hear that Hell's Angels!) Guild members may enjoy discounts to stores, subscriptions or events. Being part of a guild makes you part of your community and usually, you are extended membership to national organisations. By belonging to a guild, you play a part in preserving quilting heritage. You get to give back to your community and promote quilting for the future. Guild members have access to pattern and ruler libraries, can participate in skills and unique events and can enter quilts into shows.

I think the best reason to join a quilt guild though, is for friendship. I know, I wouldn't be quilting today if it weren't for my guild. Looking back at my personal setbacks and successes ... when I think of the people that were by my side, they were my quilting friends. My friends from guild were the guests at my wedding. It was guild ladies that lined up to be my first patients when I became a nurse practitioner, bringing their husbands along. They were the ones that quietly dried my tears as I struggled to stitch baby quilts for everyone else but me. They were the ones to throw their arms around me with joy when we adopted Darby and were the ones to throw me a baby shower. Our love and respect for one another goes far beyond quarter inch stitches. I was actually at a quilting retreat weekend when we received the call from the adoption agency to tell us that we were finally 'picked' ...

I will forever link the news that I would be a mother to that quilt shop and the ladies that were there ... I will never forget how the hum of sewing machines fell silent as I frantically took the phone to find out what the 'emergency' was to call home ... "My dad is dead ...." its all I could think ....   something dreadful must have happened! It was my quilting friends that kept me together that weekend and have celebrated our family since!

A guild friend is in need of a hug these days. One of the ongoing projects in quilt guild is to create what we call 'Hug Me Quilts'. These are specially made quilts for our members who need a special hug for whatever reason.

One of our founding members is having some health issues and has been undergoing chemotherapy. A guild hug is in order!  As I write this, the temperature outside is -34 C ... with a windchill, its around -44 C  The cold will break soon and with that, our longer northern days emerge.

There is no title for this piece yet, but I have been calling is Sunny Joy. I think some sunny joy is in order for our dear friend.

The ladies gave me the top and told me to have fun. They left the backing and quilting up to me on this one so I thought, if anyone needs some early sunshine, its our friend. Isn't this a cheery, fun quilt?
I backed the quilt with a sunshine yellow in lush cuddle. The panto is called Echo Blossoms, and as usual, I used So Fine thread in Snow.

Thanks for being part of my little quilting world!


Wednesday, 23 January 2019

What Sparks Your Joy?

January is nearly behind us ... have you checked in with your New Year's resolutions?

My goal for 2019 was (and still is) to sew through my stash (and be happy about it!). It's interesting how quilters hang onto fabric. We are all a little guilty of starting and stopping projects, failing to execute others or not wanting to cut into pieces of beautiful fabric. I can see how over the years my tastes have changed by what is left in my stash box. Stores come out in force each January selling storage bins and supplies to organise your life.

If you have Netflix or follow any other social media, you may by now have heard about Marie Kondo. Marie is the author of the 2014 book 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing'. After reading this book a few months ago, I started to look at my belongings in a different way. Marie doesn't ask you to purge your things or look for things to throw out. She asks you to tidy according to category and look at what you want to keep. If you love something, keep it! Love it, show it off, use it. Don't keep something out of guilt or because you fear needing it in the future.

Marie also has a show on Netflix called 'Tidying Up With Marie Kondo". It's worth watching to just learn how to fold your sweaters. This show is like pornography for clean freaks!

The categories to tidy are:
Komono - miscellaneous items, household goods, kitchenware, garage etc.
Sentimental Items

Kondo's idea is to only keep items you love. Don't keep things 'just because' ...

Marie has clearly never met a quilter! This beautiful pile of red fabric sparks my joy! At one time, I kept it, folded secretly in a bin ... scared to cut it, scared to ruin it or pick the wrong project. Some of the pieces were purchased because they were on sale or intended for a different quilt that didn't materialize. 

When tidying and purging, they suggest you should go in order with these items .. start with clothes and move on ... don't start with your sentimental items like old photos or family heirlooms. Gather all of your clothes from all over the house and pile them up to get a good inventory and then go about folding and tidying. After doing this, I found I have three pairs of black golf shorts - all the same size and brand. I saw that I have Five. white t-shirts. Five. Who knew?

To be honest, my quilting fabric, patterns and tools overlap between the categories of Komono and sentimental items. I have left it for last. Over Christmas, I started a small clean-up of my sewing space and started a stash plan but have not really taken a bigger dive into it. I'm not ready.

Here is the before and after of Darby's drawers .. tiny clothes all crammed in her dresser all willy nilly! Secret messes hidden behind curtains, closets and closed drawers.

Thank you Marie!

People hang to items for different reasons. Many people fear the future and want to preserve the past (maybe without realizing it). Emotional attachments give us a sense of identity. Objects and brands can signal our membership into social groups (like all of the nurses I know who carry Coach bags and wear LuLu sweaters ... high end gang symbols). I think I hang onto things out of fear ... I may need it ... I don't want to ruin things ... some guilt ... my skinny, fat and just right jeans will tell more about this another day.

After doing some Kondo tidying this month, I was shocked at how many papers I had in the house ... receipts, lists, letters, cards ... and at how many spots I was stashing them. My favourite stow area was beside the coffee pot! When I gathered it all and put it in a bin, it was everywhere. (My hubby's favorite stow spot is under the visor in our car ... he calls it the 'policeman's purse')

It made me sad and guilty to see the books I had accumulated. Books I bought and never read or expensive text books never to be read again were all hard for me to part with. Again, I had books on the bookcase, in my bedside table, one in my purse, one in my work bag ... this does not include my quilting books or patterns. I haven't even touched my cookbooks! Again, they are stashed everywhere.

As they say ... one step at a time .... one stitch at a time ... hopefully, in my next post, you will see the start of a beautiful creation from my red stash! (hint, hint ... Valentine's Day is just around the corner!)


Saturday, 19 January 2019

Winter Blues

January brings some cold temperatures to the north! This time of year can be tough on the soul as we all feel a bit cooped up when the mercury dips into minus 30 territory. Things to look forward to, of course, are quilts! January couldn't be a better time to get working on your cuddly quilts.

This blue throw was made by my customer Kareen for her daughter who is crazy about stars. Kareen usually needs a tight turn around time when I quilt for her and I'm happy to accommodate her. I am busy with work, baby, papa and the house but when the stars align, it all works out. When it all falls to pot .... well ... that's a story for another day! Things fell soon after I unloaded this sweet throw from the long arm .... 

Kareen used her old blue jeans to make this top. It has a great look. You need to be careful when working with jeans as not all denim is alike. Most of my old blue jeans have a some stretch to them (the best ones!) so they don't make for straight cuts. Some of the denim frays quite badly and some patches just don't work. The colour is off, the grains don't run together ... Kareen did a great job. She told me she really had to cherry pick through her stash for the best pieces.  By using a black one inch cotton divide, she was able to lighten up the quilt. She was set on picking a cuddle backing. At first, I warned against this as it would make the quilt too heavy but as it was only a small throw, it worked. Think of the poor person who has to wash the quilt one day ... this throw is a gift for her daughter who loves stars. We used the panto Becker's Shooting Stars for it and So-Fine thread in light grey. 

Another tip to remember when sewing with denim is to use a needle designed for jeans. I can't tell you how many needles I snapped while sewing in my early days of quilting. They really make a difference and for the few dollars it costs to buy a package of needles, well worth the investment.

These packs are at our local Walmart - $2.47. For less than three dollars you can save yourself hours or misery. Jeans needles are designed to puncture through the tougher, often thicker fabric. They are generally longer, sharper, more durable and have a bigger eye as you may want to use a heavier weight thread. Denim needles may dull more quickly than regular all-purpose needles as well. Be sure to change them out often if working on a new project.

Here's a shot of a denim/flannel rag time quilt I made in 2001. It has held up really well. This quilt currently lives at the bottom of my papa's bed.

Some more tips when sewing with denim:

* Choose the right design .. is your denim heavy and structured or lighter in texture and feel?

* Pay attention to grain lines - cut grain lines in alignment to counter twisting

* Press seams open to combat bulk. Some seams may need to be clipped shorter to combat the bulk.

* Heat and steam can be your friends. Pressing denim is important.

* Slow down! Sew at a slower pace when sewing denim. Moving too quickly may result in needle breakage and frustrations all around

* Denim is made of cotton fibres. It comes in a variety of weights.

* Denim frays. That's why I especially loved using it in my rag time quilts.

With that, I hope you have a great week and enjoy what is left of January. I am diving into a box of red fabric this week to make up something special for Valentine's Day.

Until next time ... may your blue jeans fit your bum, waist and thighs and don't force you to cut them up into a quilt!


Tuesday, 15 January 2019

What do Parsnips Have to Do With Quilts?

My great fabric destash is in full swing. I am worried though ... feeling a bit like a dieter who is gung ho to start a program January 1 only to fall victim to a plate of cinnamon buns 6 weeks later ... the excitement and momentum may fall away to winter solitude. I feel accomplished just giving my sewing space a good cleaning ... I actually clogged up our Electrolux with a ball of thread! Whoops.

My New Year's resolution this year is to destash like a mad woman! If you follow me on Instagram @foxy_mcphee (my maiden name is Fox) you will see me, and others use the hashtag #sewmystahs2019. I encourage you all to follow along and start cutting into your own stash.

I show you this bag of turnips for a reason .... I feel I am a pretty good cook, I'm a bit frugal actually, in the kitchen. My granny taught me to waste nothing ... the bread crusts got dried and crushed into crumbs, the mold gets carved off the end of the cheese and at the end of the week, whatever is left in the vegetable drawer gets thrown into a pot to be used up. Soup is never made twice the same in our house.

I decided that I needed to start sewing in the same way I cook .... see what kind of ingredients I have on hand and supplement frugally here and there to finish off the dish. Too many times I bought a fat quarter bundle or a kit 'on sale' ... maybe I had 'big plans' to start something new only to see it live in a plastic box. I only have 3 large appliqued kits nagging at me.

Back to the parsnips .... how magically these ugly roots get together with some carrots and potatoes ... I dug deep in the freezer to find some old stewing beef .... I only needed to pick up a bit of spice and add some fresh bread. Voila, a masterpiece.

Just like the waiting masterpiece at the bottom of my fabric bin! I love to see the process of turning raw ingredients into something spectacular.

Some rough product, a little elbow grease and some time ..... supper is served!

I'm proud of this bread I baked last week. It was my 2019 resolution to learn to make bread. My friend Robin walked me through the first batch. It tasted as good as it looks! Success.

This supper was enjoyed by me and my family. I love it when my hubby brags to his fishing buddy about something I cooked. He was quite impressed with the bread adventure. It has taken me awhile but it came to me over the holidays .... why don't I sew the way I cook? See what I have on hand, add a bit of spice and 'stew' up something special. Like these bread loaves ... finished is better than perfect!

Don't save things for a special occasion ... today is a special occasion!

I love how these I Spy quilts turned out. I have been feverishly cutting into my kids fabric, determined to empty it out. I have promised myself that I can not start any new projects until I finish one ... as in finish .. start to finish ... not just finish the top, but finish it all .... top, quilted and bound (boo ... binding! my least favourite part of the process). I picked a bunch of Netflix movies to help me along with the binding process ...

An I-Spy quilt is typically made up of novelty prints like the ones I have pictured. They are fussy cut with pictures ... anything goes ... animals, candy, flowers, super heroes ... the idea is to mimic a game of I-Spy in quilt form.

I made two I-Spy quilts .... one more feminine and the other more generic (I had lots of pink for some reason!) I used red bricks on the quilt below and quilted it with a variegated rainbow King Tut thread. I'm pleased with how it turned out. The panto is a new one called outer space. I really had fun with it.

And of course, cuddle on the back for both of them.

These little throws make for great car or picnic quilts. We especially love heading out to our local Drive-In each summer to watch late night movies. We are lucky to be in a community with one of the last standing out door theatres. These throws will be sure to keep sweet Darby cozy and occupied. She had a great time 'helping' me with the fabric and layout.

Here's a shot of the rough product .... like my stew ... some raw, rough products, can turn into something amazing at the end of the day!

And cut, cut, cut ..... sew, sew, sew .....

To success!

I have made a few different versions of the children's quilts over the years. This time out, I used the simple bricks pattern again. Other times, I have used 5" charms and 2/5" squares to construct them. Use whatever you have on hand. I did not buy one thread for these sweet quilts. From the top, backing and binding, it was all hobbled together from my stash. As you can see, this quilt is Casey approved! I should print that on a quilt label.

I'm determined to see the bottom of my kids fabric box this winter so you will definitely see more I-Spy's coming out of Queen Street. I also plan to have an Etsy shop up and running by spring. If you want to lay claim to one of these cuties before that, please contact me.

As always, may your pins stay sharp and you sew with joy.