Tag Archives: mamablog

Sewn: Baby Quilt

pile of nine patch blocks at amyhoodarts.com

A friend of my husband’s is expecting his first child later this year. Normally I knit for the babies, but this time I decided I wanted to sew. In particular, I wanted to sew a quilt. So I ordered a fat quarter bundle and yardage of one of the prints to use as backing and got to work. I posted process shots on Instagram; I guess this took a month or so of intermittent work? The precise work in the beginning was enjoyable in its own way. To start with, I cut 81 squares and turned them into nine nine-patch blocks (above). I made sure each nine patch had the same center and none of them repeated fabrics. Then, I cut each nine patch block into quarters and arranged them into the quilt top. I sewed them all together and added a border of the backing fabric to expand it to roughly 36″ square.

quilt top at amyhoodarts.com

It remained a quilt top for a bit while life got busy with an injured child, but eventually I returned to it and began quilting.

quilting at amyhoodarts.com

I decided on straightforward straight lines, 1/4″ away on either side from the seam lines between the main blocks. Although I’d originally thought I’d use the backing fabric for binding, once I used it as a border, I didn’t want to. So I alternated strips of the same cloud pattern but in the other two colors, orange and green. I machine sewed the binding to the front, but hand sewed it to the back, which is the neatest way to do it. I enjoy hand sewing at times. It has the benefit of being portable, so this even got worked on at my daughter’s soccer practice.

sewing on the binding at amyhoodarts.com

Once it was complete, I threw it in the washer and dryer. I’m not the only one who holds her breath during the first washing, am I? I know I sew well. There’s just something about that first run through that has my heart in my throat a little. I want to be able to confidently tell the new mom and dad that they can use this quilt, and it can get washed warm and dried in the dryer with no problems at all. Which I now know is absolutely true.

Ta-da! The finished quilt.

finished baby quilt at amyhoodarts.com

My boys, ever encouraging of Things I Make, said, “Aw, if I were a baby I’d want to sleep with that,” and, “I like all the overlapping colors.” My husband (who approved the fabric choices, since it’s his friend after all) thinks the clouds are very calm looking. I used a thin (is that the correct term?) batting, so this isn’t a squishy quilt, but I think it’s perfect for laying out on the floor so baby has a clean place to hang out and, later, play. It’s small enough to be portable but big enough to be used as an extra blanket on a big-boy bed. Yay for my first quilt! Now I want to make more.

September Reading List


I thought this month would end up a little lighter on books, but I see I read ten. This surprises me only because I learned, this past month, that our library system has loads of digital magazines available to borrow. Using the Zinio for libraries app, I always have a magazine or two loaded into my phone. It’s been fantastic–and free. I love libraries.

So, books read in September, with, as always, an asterisk next to ones I really liked. (Although if I can’t stand a book I don’t finish it, so if it’s on the list, I liked it enough to read it.)

Bookends, by Jane Green
The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kennedy
How to Write a Novel (A Novel), by Melanie Sumner *
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson *
The Yokota Officers Club, by Sarah Bird *
In the Language of Miracles, by Rajia Hassib
David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell *
What a Mother Knows, by Leslie Lehr
The Writing on My Forehead, by Nafisa Haji *
The Rumor, by Elin Hilderbrand

Speak was given to my 13yo by the middle school librarian, and when he was done, he handed it to me. Another mom in the neighborhood saw me reading it and felt it was highly inappropriate for the librarian to give it to my son without asking me, because it deals with rape. It’s a YA novel and these situations happen to kids whether we want to think they do or not. I had no problem with my son reading it, and I like that he handed it to me to read, knowing I would and we could talk about it.

Small Acts of Kindness

tiny flowers

After only a couple of days at school on crutches, N said to me, “I don’t like having to be helped everywhere. I just don’t like feeling like people need to do things for me.” I understood him perfectly. For whatever many reasons, I entered adulthood feeling like it was best not to have to rely on anybody, if I could help it. That relying on other people just meant they could let you down, and you were better off taking care of yourself all by yourself. That felt much safer. And in some respects, I guess it is. But it’s also tiring, and a bit lonely. And sometimes, like when you are on crutches in middle school and need to switch classes and get all your stuff from one room to the next, relying on other people is unavoidable.

I tried to explain some of this to N, about how I understood, and shared that it had taken me many, many years to be okay with asking for help–even though I am always willing to help other people. I told him that people like to help, for the most part. It gives them a good feeling. Thus, in a way, he was giving people a gift, because they could help him, and feel good. It’s a very human thing, but we forget it often, don’t we? It feels good to help other people. It fosters connection. We humans, we didn’t evolve to be lone units. We evolved in groups.

It’s been good, observing other sixth graders helping my kid. I chaperoned a field trip for his science class last week (I was basically his personal attendant, carrying all his stuff and making sure he didn’t tumble off a dock and infect his open wound with whoknowswhat from the Chesapeake). During the on-the-dock portion of the program, while I was quietly stressing out every time he moved (narrow dock! no railings! crutches!), N was fretting because it was so hard for him to participate in using the water quality testing equipment. Then another boy came up to him and said, “Let’s test the water together.” He handed N the monitor portion and dropped the sensor into the water while N looked for the readings. “Thank you,” I said, “for making sure to include him.” Thank you for noticing my boy. Isn’t that what these small acts of kindness are, really? Noticing, and then acting.

I picked him up from his after-school activity last week and found him waiting with two boys, one holding his backpack and the other holding his water bottle and sweatshirt. Yes, they’d been asked to do so by the teacher, but neither was complaining. I thanked them and was met with a large smile. It feels good to help.

The small acts of kindness require little more than paying attention. Am I paying attention? I try. To walk through the world mindful of where I am and what’s around me, rather than lost in my own head. To notice the person who may be struggling and remove the obstacle. Like the man backing out of the Whole Foods elevator (because parking is below the store) in his motorized shopping cart, but several carriages were just enough in his way. Simple enough to move the carriages so he could maneuver his way out. “Thank you,” he said, looking me in the eye, once he’d backed out and turned around. That look in the eye–I got the sense he felt noticed, and appreciated it. Perhaps this is the best most important thing any of us can do with our lives: notice our fellow humans and do our part to remove the small obstacles when we can.

I’m not sure if this space may evolve a bit. With a bit more time during the day for my own thoughts to quietly percolate, I find more things brewing that I may want to write up and share, along with the posts about making and creating. It’s all the art of life, after all.

Emergency Adventure

My sweet boy waiting, waiting, waiting in the ER Tuesday night.

My sweet boy waiting, waiting, waiting in the ER Tuesday night.

When I chose adventure as my word this year, this past week wasn’t quite the type I was thinking. We spent eight hours in the ER with our middle child Tuesday night/Wednesday morning after he cut his foot so badly he needed 20 stitches. He’s on crutches now. He’s doing much better and his foot looks like it’s healing well, but I wanted to mention some strategies that came in useful.

  • The medical center had a child life specialist. Obviously this was out of our control; we just lucked out. She visited several times while we waited, provided an iPad with games, answered his questions, showed him the material used for stitching so he could see the size of the needle and the type of thread. While anything was being done to his foot–application of numbing cream, cleaning, and the stitching–she sat right by his head and gave him her complete attention. She engaged him in conversation, let him know what was going on, and helped distract him from the pain. She said that medical center (which has a separate pediatric ER) has three child life specialists, all donor funded. This was our second experience with them. At one visit to the asthma clinic in RI, a child life specialist was available, but it wasn’t common. They should be a staple in pediatric ERs. I’m grateful.
  • Even with the numbing cream and an injection of extra numbing medicine, a few of the stitches were very painful. I reminded N to take bear breaths, something we recently learned about thanks to Yoga Pretzel cards. He knew just what I meant, and he took the deep breaths in, held them, exhaled, and held, and got through those painful stitches. The visualization cards were also very helpful the first day. He’s a very imaginative person and took right to imagining a happy, calm place in detail.
  • When the pain got bad those first 24-36 hours home, I mimed pulling it out of his foot. Sometimes I had to pull really hard. Then I formed it into a ball and asked him where I should throw it. Outside? No, it might be found by an animal. He decided it needed to be thrown out, and so I opened the trash can and clanged it in. I did this whenever he needed me to.
  • He’s an active kid, with a buzzy sort of energy, and he’s not allowed to put his right foot down for at least two weeks. I realized pretty quickly that sometimes when he was yelling, it wasn’t so much out of pain but as a way to get that energy out of his body because he has so few outlets to do so. It can feel good to just yell.

He’s doing better every day. It’s good to know that, as a family, we all are pretty good in an emergency. I was at soccer practice with our daughter when the injury happened, but I heard N applied his own direct pressure and V was steady, calm, and extremely helpful. (“He was a rock,” our neighbor told me. “Exactly the kind of person you want in an emergency.”) It’s been an exhausting week but we’re getting through day by day, as you do.

August Reading List

August book list at amyhoodarts.com

A sweet book playhouse/reading nook behind the Annapolis Bookstore.

I’m a little late with this, but here’s what I read in August. Again, books I particularly liked are marked with an asterisk. I didn’t include the books I abandoned for one reason or another. (Life is too short to read badly written and/or dull books.)

Housebreaking, by Dan Pope
Very Good Lives, by JK Rowling
The Sweet Spot, by Christine Carter, PhD
The Beautiful Struggle, by Ta-Nehisi Coates *
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
Reunion, by Hannah Pittard *
The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion *
Fly Away, by Kristin Hannah
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates*
Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline *
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison (re-read) *
Crossroads of Should and Must, by Elle Luna
The Mermaid Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd

(Sometimes I feel like I should annotate these lists a little beyond starring the ones I really liked, but it’s always thoughts on ones I wasn’t that impressed with, so I end up going with the adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” So I don’t.)

Finding a New Rhythm

Walking to the bus stop with Daddy.

Walking to the bus stop with Daddy.

Ever since my first child was born almost 14 years ago, I’ve had at least one child (often two) at home during the school year. This year, all three are in school at the same time. Today is the last day of the first week of school, and we are all adjusting. I feel overall positive about the opportunities the kids have in this school district, and that’s all I’ll say about them. They have their own stories, and those stories are theirs to tell or not, not mine.

So what about me? School start and end times are staggered, with my elementary student leaving and returning first. This is great for sleepy middle schoolers in the morning, but harder in the afternoon, because it means I can’t rely on my oldest to meet my youngest’s bus, because he’s not home yet. The time in between is not long enough to, say, get a job, and I’m a bit pinched logistically with fitting in middle schoolers’ appointments after school (especially given I need to meet that elementary bus). This is scheduling stuff, and we’ll figure it out and get used to it eventually. But that time in between–what do I do all day? I’m figuring that out too. After this first week I mostly feel like I’d like to take some of those hours and shift them to after-school time, when I really need an extra two, at least. Ah well.

But seriously, this is time for me to figure out my big rocks–what goes into each day first–and figure out, for the first time ever, a rhythm that takes my own wants into account first, at least for a few hours. That’s kind of heady. And important. It deserves thought. I’m working on it.

Towhee Art Quiltlet

towhee art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

This is the second little art quilt I made in the past several weeks, although I was working on both at once for a while, going back and forth. Oh, how I miss towhees. They’re not flashy, like warblers, but I love their song so much, a cheerful “drink your tea!!” rolling out from the scrubby. I realized this past winter that they stayed all winter. I don’t know if that was new or if I hadn’t noticed before. I’d usually see them on the ground near the bird feeder, and hear them singing from the trees in the spring and summer. The first day each year that I heard the towhee singing was a celebration, a sign we’d come to the end of another New England winter. That bird’s song always made me stop and smile.

Our new neighborhood is more neighborhood-y. That’s what we were looking for, for many reasons, and the kids are definitely happier, but I miss the birds. We have your typical backyard birds here, and I mainly hear mockingbirds, incessantly repeating their phrases–which, to be fair, is what I get inside the house all day long. I miss the towhees and all the other nature that surrounded us in our woodsy corner of Rhode Island. So I decided to create a towhee out of cloth collage.

fabric applique towhee at amyhoodarts.com

First I sketched the bird until I had a drawing I felt I could work with, and then I isolated different sections by the bird’s coloring. I searched my fabric stash–although I did end up buying new fat quarters for the branch, the letters (just because I really liked that fabric), and the rufous portion of the bird, as I didn’t have the just-right orangey red color. Then I traced the individual sections onto fusible adhesive, positioned them on the fabric pieces, and cut them out. Then I more or less assembled the bird puzzle onto a piece of light blue linen. I did the same for the lettering and sewed it all down.

free motion quilting at amyhoodarts.com

I decided it was time to get comfortable with free motion quilting, so I made some sandwiches and got to it. Again, this is not perfect. You can see some pulling in places. But I DID IT! I used the same fabric for the binding as I used for the letters.

Here’s a picture of the back, because I’m quite proud I got the tension right on both sides for this.

back of quiltlet, amyhoodarts.com

This one is about 13 x 15.5″ and was a blast to put together. I plan to add two hanging loops to the top, thread it over a slim branch, and hang it that way.

Again, books I used for techniques and inspiration:

Reverse Appliqué With No Brakez by Jan Mullen
Art Quilts at Play by Jane Davilá and Elin Waterston
Fresh Quilting by Malka Dubrawsky
Stitch Draw by Rosie James

And now I just need to decide–what’s next?

Sand and Sea Art Quiltlet

For the past several weeks, I’ve been working on two little sewn things. I think you could call them art quilts. They are quilted, and not from a pattern, and use various techniques. I shared in-progress photos on Instagram and kept thinking I’d do that here, too, but instead here I am with a couple of finished things–the first in this post, and the second in an upcoming post of its own. Before I made these I’d never made a quilt, even a tiny coaster-sized one, so I tackled many New Things while making these. I can’t wait to make more.

sand and sea art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

I began making this sand- and sea-inspired image because I miss the ocean like it’s oxygen. There is nothing near here, absolutely nothing, that can compare to the Atlantic coast beaches of the town I left behind. I miss our local salt pond, chock full of critters we loved to respectfully observe. More than once, we have followed behind a horseshoe crab until it buried itself in the sand. I set out to sew an ocean.

sand detail (fabric) at amyhoodarts.com

This portion of “sand” was created using Jan Mullen’s “stack, slice, switch” method (my inspiration books are listed at the end of this post). I gathered fabric scraps in sand colors–and remember, sand is a combination of so many components–and mixed and matched until I had a cobble that abstractedly reminded me of sand.

horseshoe crab detail at amyhoodarts.com

This segment of “sand” is one block of linen printed in the center with my horseshoe crab linocut. Top and bottom is a bubble wrap print. For the bottom half of the quiltlet, I joined pieces of blue scraps cut on a slant. For this first attempt, I quilted more or less using straight lines and gentle curves, with the feed dogs up. Here’s a view of the back.

back view of small art quilt at amyhoodarts.com

It’s not perfect! And I added the embroidery around the horseshoe crab after quilting, as you can see. This was my first time binding a quiltish thing, too, and check out these mitered corners!

mitered binding corners at amyhoodarts.com

The finished piece is about 13.5 by 19 inches, and I need to decide how to hang it, and where. The second quiltlet is also of something I miss from Rhode Island, and you’ll see in the next post that I tried new things with that one, too.

Books I used for technique and/or inspiration for both quiltlets:

Reverse Appliqué With No Brakez by Jan Mullen
Art Quilts at Play by Jane Davilá and Elin Waterston
Fresh Quilting by Malka Dubrawsky
Stitch Draw by Rosie James

Field Trip: Baltimore Museum of Art

Living in Annapolis, we are close to both Washington, DC, and Baltimore, which is pretty cool. Turns out Baltimore has a really nice art museum–and admission is free, everyday, for everybody, always. This should be shouted out and celebrated from rooftops because it is amazing. Providence’s art museum, RISD, was free on Sundays, which is great. Boston’s MFA has open houses twice a year, but otherwise, it cost nearly $100 for us all to go. Yesterday we paid $7 to park in the BMA’s lot. (I also contributed to the donation box on our way out.) I feel about museum art collections the way I feel about beaches–they shouldn’t be private, gated off, accessible only to a privileged few. (I can’t remember if I’ve ranted about private beaches in this space; I don’t think so. I despise the practice of “owning” access to the shoreline.) Art is part of our shared humanity. All the praise to the BMA for managing their budget in a way that prioritizes free admittance to all.

The drive to Baltimore was quicker and easier than I anticipated, even factoring in some Orioles traffic. We drove right by both stadiums (football and baseball) on our way. I had a couple areas I wanted to make sure we visited–the Crazy Quilt Exhibition and the Matisse collection. The Cone Collection was fabulous. The 20th Century American gallery included three O’Keeffes, among other little jewels, such as this Joseph Cornell box.

Cornell box from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

Joseph Cornell box at BMA

We learned so much about Joseph Cornell while preparing Art Together Issue 4, but I’d never seen a box in person before, so that was really special. And over in the Modern Art collection, they have a small, perfect Mondrian, only the second time I’ve gotten to see any in person (the other was at the Yale art museum last fall). I just stood there and grinned at it like some crazy person.

I’ll leave you with some photos from the crazy quilt exhibition. The handwork was stunning; the time commitment and dedication truly impressive.

crazy quilt detail from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

crazy quilt detail from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

crazy quilt detail at BMA from amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

I hope we’ll get back there often. It’s good to have an art museum close by.

July Reading List

July looked a lot like this.

July looked a lot like this.

July was for reading–sixteen books on this month’s list. It contains some fluff, but it’s got balance to it overall. As always, books I particularly enjoyed are marked by an asterisk. In the order I read them, here they are:

All the Single Ladies, by Dorothea Benton Frank
Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation, by Ann Marie Thomas *
Flora, by Gail Godwin
The Matchmaker, by Elin Hilderbrand
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee * (re-read)
Death Comes For the Archbishop, by Willa Cather *
Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal, by Donna Jackson Nakazawa
The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri *
Best Friends Forever, by Jennifer Weiner
Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger * (re-read)
Judge This, by Chip Kidd
The Wednesday Group, by Sylvia True
The Daughter, by Jane Shemilt *
The Shell Collector, by Anothony Doerr
The Listener, by Rachel Basch *
Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older *

I’ve also been inspired by some maker-type books, too. I’m going to try to get back to more regular posting in August, because I’ve been experimenting here and there, in between the reading and general stew-pot weather-induced lethargy. However, this computer is also lethargic (it’s the oldest laptop in the house) and I don’t always have the patience for it. So we’ll see how it goes!