Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Announcing: Creative Empathy!

Here's how it works: I encourage my friends to make a new, unplanned donation to an organization helping people who are unlike them. This could be support for relief efforts in Puerto Rico, Black Lives Matter, or any other organization of their choice. The idea is to open ourselves up to helping people who are different from us. In exchange, I will send my friends a handmade gift. The amount of the donation will remain private--that's between them and the organization. I did ask friends to share the name of the organization, in the hopes that we can all learn about new-to-us organizations that are helping others.

I've made a commitment to send 10 handmade gifts, and for now I am limiting this to my Facebook Friends.

If you're a maker, will you join in? If you share photos of your makes on instagram, let's use the hashtag #creativeempathy. And please follow me @exactlycassandra.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Q1 and W.I.P.s -- that time I stopped finishing and got started

Remember I said I am a finisher? Yeah, well, just kidding. I currently have seven quilt projects going. SEVEN.

How did that happen?

Well, I did manage a few finishes from my Q1 list:
1. A baby quilt for Jen. You'll just have to take my word for it because I have NO PHOTOS. As soon as it's gifted I'll snap some.
2. A mini star quilt for Jean, a dear colleague. I'm so pleased with this. And unbeknownst to me, Jean collects textiles! WINNING.

But about those new projects... Right now my home is in chaos--a flurry of packing and repairs, in anticipation of moving at some point in the future. At the exact time we should be making order, my heart is bursting with inspiration and the desire to create. (I've also finished four pillows, two pouches and a wall hanging.) So I start and start and start. Without complaint. The finishes will come. (Update: I finished #6. See? I can do it.)

WIPs that will no doubt make it to my Q2 list:

1. A rainbow mini quilt for Mid-Atlantic Mod. You can see a peak on Instagram. In spite of my early start, I have a feeling I'll be finishing this under pressure before the April deadline.

2. Christmas sparkle punch: I lost steam as soon as I cut the billionty squares. I'm hoping to finish it by Christmas 2016. That gives me almost nine months. Totally doable.

3. Scrap vortex. I got this one to a decent baby quilt size and packed it up. I could finish it, but I figure there will be more scraps to add so why not just take a break and come back to it later? 

4. Scrappy nine patch. I started this a month or so ago on a whim. I love to play with scraps! I'm hoping to come back to this one soon.

5. Starry night BOM. Another whim. At least this one is monthly so I can pace myself!
A photo posted by Cassandra McKee (@pilarandolivia) on

6-7. More baby boy quilts. Why cut one when I can cut and piece two at the same time? These are simple patchwork quilts with 7.5" squares. One is for a colleague expecting this spring. The other is for a home tbd. So far I've got one ready for quilting finished (hooray!) and one ready for piecing.
A photo posted by Cassandra McKee (@pilarandolivia) on

Linking up with Debbie at A Quilter's Table for the 2016 FAL Q1 finishes!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The New (2016) Version of Me

 Any Felicity fans out there?

This post is long overdue.

These photos -- the first/best photos of me since cutting, losing and regrowing my hair -- were taken back in November. That feels like eons ago. Since then I've had two hair cuts!

New version of me, November 2015

This is 40. And a half.

A friend of mine, Elise, took these photos. I remember feeling happy and free and beautiful that day, and when I look at these photos I see that in my face.

But the truth is, I am still grieving my old self while I am learning to love my new self. It is hard to look at old photos and see the old me. The youthful me, with long, brown hair. I am not quite used to seeing myself with short hair. I am not used to seeing myself so gray. I am not used to seeing so much of my face. I am not used to seeing my body so soft. The newness is hard. Change is hard. 

When I opted to remove my ovaries and tubes -- to willingly enter menopause at 40 -- I didn't consider the emotional impact. I prepared myself for (some of) the physical changes, but I didn't prepare myself for how I'd feel about them. It's not just the hair, it's the aging that happened overnight.

I could just dye my hair (again). And I can grow it out. I can exercise more. I might do all of these things. And don't get me wrong, I do love me. I just got a hair cut I love (it's short and not wavy!). I don't even mind the sparkle. It's a process, though.

When she learned of my diagnosis, Elise offered to take family photos as a gift to me. We finally made it happen this past November when the whole family was in NJ. I think we were a little more than she bargained for: in addition to my husband and two boys, I brought along my parents, my sister, my brother in law, my brother, and Odin the dog.

The family.

Odin was my brother Pete's dog. Pete died in November 2013, and Odin now lives with my parents. Having Odin at the photo shoot was a way to honor Pete's memory and made taking family photos after such a great loss a little more bearable.

Look at this face! I love you, Odin!

In December I gifted to Elise a quilt for her new studio space. It was so good for my soul to make something for her to honor her gifts and our friendship. Would you believe I forgot to take photos of it? Here's hoping Elise reads this and sends me a beautiful photo to share with you. :)

If you ever have reason to be in Northern New Jersey, check out Elise Campbell Photography.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

2016 Finish Along -- Quarter 1

A photo posted by Cassandra McKee (@pilarandolivia) on

My sister surprised me with a Go! Fabric Cutter by Accuquilt for Christmas. This thing is incredible! My boys love to crank it and together we have cut hundreds of squares. The Go! came with a die for two different sized squares and one half-square triangle, but I ordered the 3.5" square die with my Christmas sparkle punch quilt in mind. Truthfully, it's a little inefficient (I cut my strips an extra 1/4" to make sure I fully cover the die), but I can see how it will save me a lot of time -- especially cutting scraps. Plus, it's so fun.

I started sewing the wonky stars for the Christmas quilt last week, but that quilt was put on hold today while I started a new project: a wonky star mini for Jean (shown above). A colleague of mine loves the color teal, which happens to be one of my favorite colors, too. She's planning a job change, so I'm going to surprise her with a little wall hanging. It's looking great so far, and I'm excited to gift it to her. Oh, I love the lazy days of winter. It was so good to spend the day sewing.

Once again I'm participating in the Finish Along to help keep me on track with my goal to finish all of my projects.

Here's my list of finishes for the First Quarter of the 2016 Finish Along. I am keeping it real and not including the stacks of fabric I have for imaginary projects.

1. Wonky star mini for Jean. This mini is inspired by our mutual love of the color teal. I'm loving how it is coming along. I pulled fabric from my AMH stash, hit my pile of 3.5" scrap squares, and added a few 5" charms. I cut into some yardage, but not a lot. It will be so nice to have a finish this week! Yes, this week. I can do it.

2. Baby boy quilt for Jen. No idea what it'll look like, but I love the fabric pull so that's a good start.

3. Christmas sparkle punch quilt (pattern by Elizabeth Hartman/Oh Fransson!). Most of the squares are cut! Realistically, this won't get done until the second quarter at the earliest. I'm thinking I'll take it to the Mid-Atlantic Mod retreat in April.

May not look like much, but that's over 600 squares!

4. scrap vortex quilt, (following the tutorial by Amanda Jean at Crazy Mom Quilts). I've got hundreds of quads sewn. That's something, right? As with the Christmas quilt, this one is unlikely to be finished this month. But never say never...

Linking up with Debbie at A Quilter's Table for the 2016 Finish Along!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2016 Sewing Goals

Doll quilt for P. Sleeping lizard!

What will 2016 have in store? I'm expecting to do a little less sewing this year, to make room for travel and other adventures. With the time I do sew, I'd like to be intentional about these things:

1. Continue finishing. I have been very good about finishing what I start, and I hope to keep up that trend.

2. Embrace improv and sew less from other people's patterns. I whipped up the doll sleeping bag/quilt in a morning. No pattern, just free sewing. It was glorious.

 3. Try triangles. I've been admiring equilateral triangle quilts for years and think I'm finally ready to give one a try!

4. Sew my stash. I'm not going to commit to buying no new fabric, but I'd like to limit my fabric buying as much as possible. I've got more than enough novelty prints to last me a lifetime, and my scrap bins are overflowing. But I'll probably need a solid or low volume print here and there to finish up projects. Birthday gifts don't count, right? April is around the corner...

5. Be brave. I'm borrowing this from Melanie Tuazon who has a great post about her rules for 2016 and includes "dare to be awesome". I'm going to focus my bravery on swaps which routinely give me anxiety (is my work good enough, will the recipient like it, etc.). I signed up to participate in the swaps when I attend the Mid Atlantic Mod Retreat this spring, as a way to challenge myself.

That's it! What are you planning for 2016?

Doll quilt -- flip side

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015 Wrap Up -- Determination

WHEW! Happy New Year, friends! What a difference a year makes. Last January I was reeling from my breast cancer diagnosis ("Cruella") in December, learned that I carry the BRCA2 mutation, and was preparing for the first of four (!) surgeries. That time feels both far away and not so long ago.

I've been writing and re-writing my thoughts about 2015, and I haven't quite found the words to express what I'm feeling. I thought I'd be rushing to the new year, but as happy as I am to be closing the cancer chapter of my life, my feelings about the year are overall pretty positive. Seems strange, but it's true. I'm grateful to have learned so much about myself, and to have experienced the support and friendship of so many. SO many. I feel grateful and lucky.

Last year I chose "determination" as my word and I was certainly determined. I planned to make six quilts and finished 14. All while working a full-time job, parenting two small kids, and undergoing cancer treatment. (I made 12 in 2014 and didn't expect to beat that, but turns out sewing is excellent therapy.)

I planned to recap my 2015 goals and sewing to do list, but that seems boring so instead I'll tell you about some of my favorite finishes.

1. Greatest Hits: an improv scrap quilt of Anna Maria Horner prints, with a few Tula Pink prints thrown in. I struggled with this quilt -- couldn't figure out how to make it work. Usually I would force it to get to the finish, but this time I let it sit until I could see how it was meant to be. Finished in December 2015 and gifted to Caroline. One of three projects for the Q4 Finish Along.

2. Husband of the Year: a quilt for the Husband. My best work to date. Blogged. Also one of my goals for Q4 of the Finish Along.

3. Plus Quilt 4: a baby quilt for Maude. I loved the ease of pulling fabrics in the same color. This was no-pressure sewing at its best! See also my Cotton + Steel plus quilt and a quilt for T.

4. Unicorn Quilt for Jane: This was my first finish of the year, and it's one of my favorites. I'm so proud of how it came together. Blogged.

How about you? What was your word for 2015? Did it ring true? Here's to your health and happiness in a new year!

Linking up with the 2015 Finish Along hosted by Adrienne at On the Windy Side.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Finished: a quilt for the Husband of the Year!

Oh, yeah: I finished this back in October. My first finish in Q4 of the 2015 Finish Along!

No big news here, this was a rough year. Through it all I had a true champion and partner at my side.

He's the love of my life. He makes me laugh and sing. He makes coffee in the morning, and dinner at night. He loves our boys and is the center of their world. He encourages me in all things. He takes "in sickness and in health" seriously.

This quilt is my interpretation of the Framed Coins pattern in the book Skip the Borders by Julie Herman of Jaybird Quilts. I love how it turned out. In fact, I think this is the best quilt I've ever made, so it's fitting that it now belongs to the person representing the best decision of my life. 

It came to life at the summer retreat I attended with my guild, DC Modern Quilt Guild. The Doe fabric line by Carolyn Friedlander confounded me for some time, but once I paired it with a few solids I saw its potential. I edited out a few prints, including the orange print which I added back at the last minute. It really pops against the marine solid, doesn't it? 

I managed to cut the entire quilt and piece all of the sections during the retreat. When I returned home I finished the top and matched it with Tula Pink's Free Fall in gray. I LOVE this line of wide quilt backs; it is a super soft sateen. 

It felt risky at the time, but I started on very dense quilting and am so glad I did. The texture is incredible. That said, the dense quilting is no joke: hours and hours and hours. It took a lot of perseverance to finish this baby.

Here's to the Husband of the Year!

Quilt! Landscaping!