Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Merry Quilt-mas

What's the best part of Christmas?
Christmas trees? 
Christmas trees? 
And more Christmas trees? 

But also: Snuggling up near those Christmas trees, and watching Christmas movies. 
And to do THAT properly-you need a Christmas quilt! 
Well, good news for our family...we have one! But when it comes to all things Christmas (or all things Courtney) is one enough? OF COURSE NOT. 

So it comes as no surprise that as I started to pull out our Christmas decor, I started to feel the urgent need to MAKE. So I went ALL in and started my own unofficial 12 Days of Christmas Quilting event.

And here's the end product of my End Game:


I fa-la-la-la-love it!! The behind the seams details:
  • Quilt Pattern: End Game by Tied with a Ribbon. This isn't a Christmas pattern specifically, but aren't the triangles just the most perfect trees? It was a pretty simple pattern...though it took me a little while to land on my fabric layout. Once I started actually sewing the top it came together super quickly. And I've never worked with equilateral triangles before, but just working in rows across made it pretty simple. (This triangle ruler made cutting pieces SO much faster).

  • Fabric: It's a big mix of things from JoAnn's. (You know I'm all about convenience...and a deal). 50% off Christmas fabric? Yes, I will take them all. The backer fabric has little green trees, and is actually a part of their year-round line: White Sketched Forest Quilter's Showcase Cotton. The white background is also a non-holiday fabric- it has teeny-tiny white-on-white triangles that don't show up in pictures really but add just a hint of pattern/texture when you see it up close: Triangles White On White Quilter's Showcase Cotton. The rest were mostly JoAnn's exclusives, with the exception of one "designer" fabric: Merry Main Street Alexander Henry Christmas Cotton. I knew the minute I saw that I wanted it to have a special spot in the quilt. I love the retro vibes, and the colors are perfect. It's can be fine line between cute and "cutesy" when making Christmas-themed things, so I tried to use just a small hit of this fabric to keep the whole thing modern, and not overly-literal. I love that addition feels a little quirky without being over-the-top.

  • Backing design: I don't know why I insist on doing special designs on the back of all of my quilts. It's double the work...maybe triple, because you have to do two unique sides, PLUS make sure they work together (and it complicates the quilting pattern). But DANG it makes the whole thing more special. So I continue to torture myself, and no matter the mental gymnastics or physical labor, I am always grateful I did it. This one was no exception. I agonized over what to put on the back (ok, agonized might be a touch over dramatic, but I did toy with more than a handful of options for an hour at least, just hemming and hawing and consulting with my studio-mate/husband). I didn't want to recreate the front too closely, but I still wanted them to feel related. I was also working around some fabric limitations/seams on my backer, and I wanted to make sure that whatever I designed would line up with the front when I sandwiched them so I could plan my quilting to work with both. I finally landed on two simple triangles made up of a mix of fabrics, to pull in all the prints and patterns and mimic the shapes from the front. And...I love it. For me- the backer result is always worth the backer effort. 

  • Quilting design: My skills are limited here, so straight lines it is! It's really just a matter of how many, and which way they go. I got inspired by some fancy stuff I saw others doing, but 1: a lot of other End Game quilts use solids, so more elaborate quilting would stand out a bit more. 2: my best skill isn't quilting, so it didn't seem to make sense to pour a ton of effort into something that still may not turn out awesome. At this stage, for this quilt, simple seemed best- so I went with diagonal lines, parallel to one side of my triangle seams. They're about 2.5" apart, evenly spaced with 3 lines across on each triangle. 

  • Timeline: I wasn't kidding when I said it was the 12 Days of Christmas Quilting. I bought all my fabric on Friday November 12th, and wrapped it up late Tuesday the 23rd (just in time for Thanksgiving). That was a lot

  • Media of choice while I worked: Netflix Christmas movies, obviously! I watched Love Hard, Single All the Way, Father Christmas is Back, A California Christmas, and The Holiday Calendar. I sprinkled some Disney+ in there too (The Sandlot, Saving Mr. Banks) and when that all got too saccharine-y, I made a HARD pivot, and binged season 2 and 3 of You. A stalker/serial killer series is probably not the most appropriate background track for a Christmas quilt, but I've learned that I sometimes prefer having a series to watch while I work, rather than movies, because it gives you more uninterrupted hours of content. With movies I had to figure out something new to watch every 1.75 hours, but with a series (especially one with multiple seasons) you can just leave it on indefinitely.
  • New thing I tried/learned: Well, I've apparently made my own binding before, but that was on my very first quilt, back in 2013, so my memory of that is pretty much nil. Typically I use pre-made bias tape, but I knew I wanted candy cane stripes for this one (and didn't want to spend time or money on an Etsy order) so I thought I'd try making it myself. I found some easy tutorials and while it definitely took more time than store-bought tape, I really am proud of the result. For this design it needed to be on the bias (to get the stripes to be diagonal) but in the future I think I'll try just cutting regular strips of fabric in order to have custom colors or patterns.

  • Final thoughts: This was SO fun to work on. I've been quilting a LOT over the last month or two (I still have another finished project to share...) which has gotten a little overwhelming at times (it's a lot of late night hours). But mostly it's been a happy place for me. I love doing something with my hands, getting into the "flow", and the feeling of accomplishment that quilting provides. And after making a lot of quilts for other people, it's fun to have one that I get to enjoy! This holiday time is so special...and so is having a keepsake like this.
And just for fun- here are some shots of my two Christmas quilts together. I love how they work together without being too matchy. They're both already getting lots of snuggle time, so I can attest they look just as good mashed up in a big ball on the couch.

Ooooh- P.S. While I was in the Christmas crafting mood, I whipped up a couple gifts for a friend's new twin babies. I made some truly tacky terrible stockings for Dustin and me our first year of marriage (I think I finally donated them to Goodwill last year after leaving them stuffed in the bottom of a bin for years) but other than that I've never tried stockings. When Katie said she really wanted some faternal twin stockings for her fraternal twin babies, I figured I'd give it a shot! I mish-mashed two free patterns together- mostly this patchwork one, using the shape and finishing methods from Suzy Quilts. It ended up being a touch harder than I thought...but maybe just because I tried to get them done in a matter of days (and I picked a pretty labor intensive design), but all things considered, I'm so pleased with how they turned out. Love the idea that my work gets to be part of people's lives and traditions. (All of the fabric is collected from my two quilts, and the inside lining is the white fabric with little trees. So cute!)

All Sources/Details:

Pattern: End Game by Tied with a Ribbon
Finished size: 62" x 72" (designed to be a throw)
Total Time spent: About 29 hours. But that includes lots of "think time"- incluidng choosing fabric,
Cost: Honestly...I don't really know. I am not greaaaaat at keeping track of such things (maybe I don't want to know?!) but I also had some issues with my e-receipts getting lost so we'll just say it was a gift from Santa.

Fabric: All JoAnn's. With enough leftovers to make some other this tree skirt. NEXT year.
Binding: Made from red and white stripe fabric, using this tutorial. (I am not kidding when I say the tip on how to press it into double fold tape BLEW MY MIND). Mr. Domestic also has a reel that shows the process well. And I always follow Cluck Cluck Sew machine binding tutorial.
Batting: Pellon Nature's Touch Cotton Batting Twin Size 72"x90". (It was cheaper to get pre-packaged, vs. by-the-yard even though it was a bit larger than I needed it. The extra was more than enough to make stockings with, and I still have some big-ish scraps I can use for something.)
Tools: For those of you looking to get some of the basic tools of the trade- here's what I can't quilt without.

  • Triangle ruler - this was fairly specific to this project, but even if I never use it again (which I honestly am already planning to) it still would have been worth it to sail through the cutting process.
  • Scissors - Is it weird to have a favorite style of scissors? Well...then I'm weird. These are the
  • Cutting Mat & Rotary Cutter- Must haves.
P.S. See more quilty goodness: here on the blog, or on IG via #bowdenismsews
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Monday, October 25, 2021

BOO(ks): Spooky Season Must-reads

There is just about nothing I love more than going ALL OUT for holiday you know that when Spooky Season arrives, I the kids say... zero chill. It's been basically a month of non-stop pumpkin scented everything around here, and I make no apologies. I'm here for all the crafts (and festivals, and treats, and matching jammies)...but especially: the books. I've been sharing our weekly/daily/hourly library hauls on Instagram, but thought it would be helpful to do a bit of a permanent "round up" of the books we just can't get enough of this time of year.

Our Top Picks:
The shelf staples (in no particular order)

  • Spooky Pookie: Pookie is just the cutest. But Pookie in COSTUMES is even better.
  • Seaver the Weaver: A story about a spider learning to do things his own way. Love his creativity!
  • Gustavo the Shy Ghost: Lovely story about a ghost finding friends. Beautiful work by a Mexican author/illustrator. We tried the Wonderbook version of this one- the "soundtrack" made it extra special.
  • Room on the Broom: A true classic (from the creators of The Gruffalo, so you know it's good.)
  • Ghost in the House: What kid doesn't like a lift-the-flap book? This one has a surprise to guess on each page.
  • The Monster's Monster: The characters here are irresistible, and the main guy has such a sweet spirit.
  • The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything: Even my littlest ones have this memorized. Do you remember this one from elementary school read aloud? I'll never tire of it.
  • Pick a Pumpkin: Beautifully illustrated story about Fall. 


Honorable Mentions:  
If you have a liiiiiiitle bit more space on your shelf...or 5 more minutes until bedtime (for REAL this time) these are great additions.


And if that's still not enough (what even IS enough!?!) Here is the FULL list of what we're reading (and loving) this season:

Original Favorites
Unique stories...mostly new to me, maybe to you too!
  • Monster Trouble: Points for diversity. Love that the monsters can be defeated with kisses!
  • Bone Soup: Anything with a bit of an "ick" factor is a hit with my kids. This one has an actual recipe at the end...but contains far too many vegetables for my children to want to attempt it!
    Posey the Monster Slayer
    : Love the strong main character...she ignores bedtime to fight monsters...much to her parents' chagrin. They get increasingly upset, using her FULL name as they yell for her to get back in bed. We all got a kick out of that....relatable.
  • The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt: Ok- I cheated. I have this on hold from the library, but haven't gotten to read it yet. But SURELY I'll love it, right?! The title alone!
  • Jerry Seinfeld Halloween: If you remember his bit about Halloween- "Get Candy Get Candy Get Candy!" you'll love this illustrated version.
  • The Spider and the Fly: Not going to lie- the subject of this one was a bit dark. It has a decent lesson...but still creeped me out a little. The illustrations are beautifully intricate and dramatic though!
  • The Okay Witch: The first graphic novel my ten year old has tried...I can't personally vouch for it, but she begs me to stay up late reading it, so that feels like a good sign. 
  • It's a Pumpkin: Animals solving a silly little mystery...what IS that thing?
  • Stumpkin: Poor little guy just wants to be picked!
  • Sir Simon: Super Scarer: Cute buddy comedy between a ghost and the friend who finds him.
  • The Little Ghost Who Lost her Boo: Simple story about a ghost looking for her "boo". Good for little kids- especially if they love animal sounds.
  • Ghosts: A loooong one. But fun concept about all the different types of "typical household ghosts" (and yes, my kids especially liked that there was one in the bathroom!)
  • Los Gatos Black on Halloween: Fun to learn some Spanish vocab.
  • How to Make Friends with a Ghost: Sweet story about making friends for life (and beyond). 

You get it.

Simple Stories
Not investment pieces but still fun, quick reads that kids will get a kick out of.

Non-Technically Halloween
(But still fun and spooky)

Fav Series
If your kids (or you!) have a fav author/series/charactore then these Halloween editions are sure to be a hit!

So, there's a virtual hayride full of my opinions. But what about you? Any other favs in your pile? What winners did I miss? And is anyone else up to their earwigs in spooky stories and LOVING IT?


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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Little Pip-Speaks: Volume 36

My kids are really stinkin' big now. And really stinkin' funny still. Let's go:


Pip-speak #1: 

Piper: {coming home after her first dance class} I borrowed ballet shoes. A.k.a.: foot traps.

Pip-speak #2:
Mama: {Reading a Table Topic} What 3 things would you like to accomplish in 3 years?
Piper: Learn what the word accomplish means?

Pip-speak #3:
Piper: {looking at a picture of herself in my Timehop app} Aw, is that me? Am I zero? I’m cute....for zero.

Pip-speak #4:
Piper: Know what I learned in the life of 4th grade? If you’re not into Pop-Its you have no friends.
No Pop-Its, no friends.

Pip-speak #5:
Piper: {to Fin} That’s your voice called "I don’t want to be wrong".

Pip-speak #6:
Mama: {Watching her take forever to drop off treats to the neighbors because she walked allllll the way around the path} You could have cut through the yard!
Piper: I wanted to be respectful! Plus they had a ring doorbell and it was camera-ized!

Pip-speak #7:
Piper: {seeing an outlet mall out the window} Hey mom look! It’s kind of a beachy town over there.


Pip-speak #8:
Tia: What time is your bedtime?
Piper: Anywhere from 9 o' clock to a thousand.

Pip-speak #9:
Piper: Mom, my belly button is like a swimming pool for ants!

Pip-speak #10:
Piper: {regarding Martha Stewart's frozen mac & cheese bites} Well it IS made by a professional so if must be good.
Mama: What?
Piper: Look at her- she looks professional!

Pip-speak #11:
Piper: (discussing how to get Dad to let her dog-sit) I could help w the convincing! I think he kinda has a soft spot for me. But I think he has a big one for you. Like a huge one.

Pip-speak #12:
Piper: Dad never lets me do science.
Mama: Science? Or slime? I think he just doesn’t let you do super sticky stuff.
Piper: The only science I’m interested in is sticky science.


Pip-speak #14:
Mama: Name three animals you’re scared of at the beach.
Piper: Alligator, snapping turtle and sharks
Mama: OK. Name three animals you’re NOT scared of at the beach.
Piper: Fish, sardines and sushi

Pip-speak #15:
Mama: Name three ways you can make music without an instrument.
Piper: Mouth, hands and knuckles


Pip-speak #16: 

Piper: Are you a talker person or a listener person?
Mama: You know this. I’m a talker person. What about you?
Piper: I’m a talker too. Listening is boring.
Mama: But you’re such a great listener.
Piper: Yeah I guess but that doesn’t mean I like it.

Pip-speak #17:
Piper: Why do they call them king cobras? How do they have babies if they’re all king cobras?

Pip-speak #18:
Piper: {eating Fruit Loops} This tastes like a hotel! 


Pip-speak #19: 

Piper: I’m going to be 10 and dad said we’re going to have a big party because 0 birthdays are big. They are!

Pip-speak #20:
Mama: You have to wake up pretty early in the morning to beat your mom at Mon-Cheeka-Cheeka.
Piper: Oh, why? So that you’re real tired?
Mama: Just put your fr...stinking jammies on.
Piper: I know what bad word you were gonna say. It's really easy to hear f sounds.


Finnish #1:
Fin: {discussing our littlest's eating habits} Did she eat her cookie already? Whoa. She is a treat machine. But not a dinner machine.

Finnish #2:
Me: Getting donuts always makes me feel like we’re on vacation because we don’t usually do that in our own town.
Fin: Except for sometimes at church…like if daddy had to go early to be the pastor or something we would get donuts at Tim Hortons.

Finnish #3:
Fin: I want quadruplets. That way you only have to remember one birthday. And they’ll all move out at once and you can have peace.

Finnish #4:
Finley: The horses are going so slow. You might want to hee-yah them.

Finnish #5:
Finley: {at the party store} Can we ask the keepers if they have pinatas?

Finnish #6:
Finley: {at the pool's lazy river} You’re not allowed to sit there.
Mama: I think it'll be fine.
Fin: Ok but they might blow up you. {meaning: use their whistles}

Finnish #7:
Finley: Can you high-er my ponytails?

Finnish #8:
Mama: You can’t put metal in the microwave.
Fin: {bangs on the side of a mug} Is that why you have to check if it’s ting-y?

Finnish #9:
Fin: I have a super good rememberer. I just have to say it over and over and over again and then I remember it. Like 357. I remember that from like...weeks ago.

Finnish #10:
Fin: Does god have birthdays? I guess not because he can’t get older because he never dies. Right? Well, I bet he’s old because he couldn’t be a kid because he’s so wise. He has to be a grown up. Do you think we disappear when we die? Because heaven can’t fit everyone. Like, there have been a lot of people that lots of years ago, so it would get crowded. But the sky IS big. So maybe. Maybe if you really like space you could go to space, or you could go to the sky. Like on a rainbow. And you wouldn’t even have to get wet because you’d be ABOVE the clouds!

Finnish #11:
Miller: Why do they have their shirts off?
Fin: They’re boys. that’s what boys do to look tough. They get tattoos on their nipples! 

Finnish #12:
Miller: What’s the grossest thing you never ate?
Mama: Well, some people eat cow brains...that sounds gross to me.
Finley: Can you taste their thoughts?

Finnish #13:
Fin: Miller, I’ll be happy to hug you just not while I’m getting my jammies on. You always wanna hug me when it’s not convenient. it’s not that I don’t want to hug you. I’ll hug you right now! Just let me get my shirt on because hugging without a shirt on is weird. I don’t know how Dad does it. Like when he goes to swim parties and stuff...

Finnish #14:
Mama: {honestly, I don't even remember what this was regarding} Why don’t you leave them where they are?
Finley: Yeah but I have a vision and it’s going to be awesome.


Miller Musings #1:  

Miller: You should NOT throw up out the window. Because sometimes when I throw up there are chunks in it and a car could trip over it and crash


Miller Musings #2: 

Miller: Mommy I am sure my pants aren’t on backwards because I can feel the tags itching me on the bum right now. 


Miller Musings #3: 

Miller: {regarding our Black foster daughter} She is one of a kind! She’s the only one who has those owl jammies in our whole family. 


Miller Musings #4: 

Mama: What should we do for Papa’s bday?

Miller: Hmmm. What’s his birthday theme?


Miller Musings #5: 

Mama: Those are perfect. 

Miller: THAAAAAT’S a cat joke. ('Cuz purrrfect?!)


Miller Musings #6:

Miller: {cleaning out stuff from his bedroom after my work day} Mom, you sure do drink a lot of sodas in my office.  

Miller Musings #7: 

Miller {emphatically reminding himself during a scary movie scene} It’s just a movie. It’s probably animated. 

Miller Musings #8:

Mama: I love you and I like you. Do you know the difference?

Miller: No. 

Mama: Well I love you with my whole heart because you’re my kid. But even if you weren’t my kid I’d want to hang out with you because I like you. 

Miller: Yeah we coulda been friends then. 

Miller Musings #9:

Dad: {after dinner at a restaurant} I gotta tell you guys, you did a great job in there.

Miller: Yeah normally we’re badder than that. 

Miller Musings #10:

Miller: If you were in the Olympics and doing the high jump it would be better if you were lean. Because if you were plump you’d probably knock over the bar. 

Miller Musings #11:

Miller: {listening to wedding vows, "to love her, honor her, cherish her etc. etc."} That’s a lot of things to do with her. 

Miller Musings #12:

Miller: {trying frozen sweet tea} If you ignore the flavor it’s really good.

Miller Musings #13:

Miller: Why are they even called crayfish? They aren’t even fish! But they ARE dangerous. 

Mama: Dangerous?

Miller: What?! They can pinch you!

Miller Musings #14:

Miller: You loved us when we were babies. Even more than you do now. Bc we were cuter then!

Miller Musings #15:

Mama: Which of these animals lay eggs? A fish, a turkey or a pig?

Miller: A fish, and a turkey. A pig would just get his eggs all muddy!

Miller Musings #16:
Miller: {using two spoons in his ice cream} Now I can eat two times as faster!

Miller Musings #17:
Mama: We can walk back to our bikes.
Miller: I wish we brought our bikes so we could bike back to our bikes.

Miller Musings #18:
Mama: {sings a bedtime song with "tacos" in it}
Miller: Aw, I wanted you to sing about leather jackets. But tacos are kinda like leather jackets because they keep your food warm.

Miller Musings #19:

Miller: Mommy you know what’s nice about whales? When they eat you they don’t even bite you because they don’t have any teeth. They just swallow you. 

Miller Musings #20:

Miller: These are the best eggs ever. and by the way, the drippier they are, the gooder they are.  

Miller Musings #21:

Miller: {putting his stuffies Blue Jelly and Peanut on my lap with a book on their bellies} Now you don’t have to hold the book. Bellies are good for a lot of things. Like closing doors when you’re out of hands. 


Miller Musings #22:

Miller: The game said it was for preschoolers, but G’mi couldn’t even do it. And G’mi is like a 70 grader.

Miller Musings #23: 

Miller: {regarding polo shirts} I am definitely the hottest because I have this ruffle on my neck.


Miller Musings #24: 

Mama: Are you in slow motion?

Miller: No, I’m on island time 

Miller Musings #25:

Miller: When your foot falls asleep, it feels all fizzy. 


Miller Musings #26:

Mama: You are the snuggliest kid. Is that your best skill?

Miller: *giggles* Ummm no. Probably beat boxing. But then snuggling. But your first is sourdough. Snuggling is your second. And your third is..... being the best mom in the world. 


And our littlest is finally getting in on the action (well- more accurately she's been jabbering on for-evvvvvvver at this point, but I'm finally recording some of her gems.

Kiddo-Quip #1: 

Little Miss: Is the air fryer gonna go on? {air mattress}

Kiddo-Quip #1:

Little Miss: Mommy can we have music?

Mama: Not right now.

Little Miss: Well I have music in my mouth! *hums*


Kiddo-Quip #1:

Mama: The trampoline is dirty. we need to spray it down. 

Little Miss: NO! Don’t spray it down! 

Mama: Why?

Little Miss: Because I love it.

Kiddo-Quip #1:

Little Miss: It’s hard to see me in my camels. {camo jammies}


Kiddo-Quip #1:

Little Miss: Now I don’t stink very well bc G’mi changed my diaper.


Kiddo-Quip #1: 

Little Miss: {blinking with alternate eyes} My eyes can hop! 

Kiddo-Quip #1:

Little Miss: I have an eye crusty. *puts it on her finger* Let me just make a wish.

Kiddo-Quip #1:

Little Miss: Do you have syrup on your eyes? {makeup}

Kiddo-Quip #1:

Little Miss: {seeing me dressed up as my mom} Are you Mama or no?


Kiddo-Quip #1:

Little Miss: Mama, why you have dis? *points to me*

Mama: My shirt?

Little Miss: No, dis! It’s squishy. *pats my chest*

Mama: Oh. That’s my body. 

Little Miss: I don’t have bodies. Well, I have tiny bodies. You have big bodies! 

Little Miss: Daddy- do you have bodies?

Daddy: {barely watching or listening} What? I have A body. 

Little Miss: Yeah, but Mommy has TWO bodies!


P.s. If you just can't get enough, check out the last round...or all 30+ installments.

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Thursday, August 26, 2021

Desert Vibes

A special person + a special occasion calls for one thing: a special quilt! 

My niece is moving to Arizona for college (she actually started her road trip there yesterday morning, so should be arriving in Phoenix in a few hours...depending on how many times her Dad and her cat wanted to stop for snacks!), and she asked me to make a quilt for her dorm room. And like most things in her life- Ali knew what she wanted! (I like that in a girl!) This is the first quilt I've done "by request"...she had seen the "Night Sky" quilts I made for my friend's babies, and asked if I could make a grown up version of those. That of course meant scaling it up for a "big girl bed" but she also wanted it have "out west" vibes, with neutrals, and her favorite color: coral. Kind of like a desert sunset. I caught her vision, and was up for the challenge. At the time, her departure was about a month away, so I figured I'd have plenty of time to knock it out...after all, I had just made two just like hard could it be?

(and that, dear readers, is what they call foreshadowing...)

But we've got enough sadness with our beloved Ali leaving...let's focus on the happy parts of this project. Like- the finished product!



(in blog land you have to be your own hype girl)

Now do a little twirl: 

No, not like that, I mean let's see the back!

What do you think? Desert chic, no? 
This quilt was a challenge (aren't they all?!) but I'm really proud of how it turned out. With each new project I learn new lessons (the hard way. always the hard way). So this is another "made with love not perfection" piece. Hopefully all of my "mistakes" can be considered part of the charm. (I try to tell myself- in quilting, and in life- that no one notices my flaws as much as I do...) It was a labor of love for sure, and I really hope having a piece of home/family with her keeps her body- and heart- warm. (But let's be real, she'll be in Phoenix, which is about 1 degree away from the surface of the sun, so warmth won't really be an issue. Maybe she'll just tack it up to her wall to remember us by).

So that's the short story with the big payoff...for those of you detail's the full tale:
  • Quilt Pattern: I based this off of the NightSky Quilt by SkyClad Quilts, but that pattern doesn't go up to a twin size, so I had to modify/improvise. Mostly that just meant buying WAY more fabric (which is still somehow never enough) and playing around with the layout to get the "mountains" to look right. This pattern is a little hard to without wasting a lot of fabric (last time I was able to use the leftover yardage from one set of mountains to make another similar set of mountains for the second quilt. No such option for this big singleton.) and I haaaaaate wasting fabric (call me cheap- but I prefer efficient) so I had to finagle things a bit to get it all to work. That's the problem solving component of quilting, which- when it isn't making my brain hurt- is actually part of the fun.

  • Fabric: Like the baby quilts, this was all solids- a mix of JoAnn's basics and Kona Cotton. I really struggled to get the colors to work with each other...I must have tried every combo under the (desert) sun. To some degree, I was limited by what was available in stock. I got the bulk of my fabrics at JoAnn (I'm a sucker for a coupon), but eventually I hit up a specialty shop, Quilt Beginnings, for some harder to find shades. I played around with a ton of layouts, and eventually settled on a gradient I thought worked. (Maybe I finally called it done when I felt satisfied with the selections. Maybe I stopped when Piper and Little Miss ran out of patience comparing nearly identical shades of beige. Hard to say.) I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do for the back, and got a little nervous that nothing would be quite right (sophisticated prints can be a little hard to come by in a sea of classic country, seasonal and whimsical options) but when I found this Oasis Modern Geo I knew I had a winner. My kids were skeptical (I think they just don't really "get" brown) but I follow enough younger-than-me, cooler-than-me influencers to know the color combo and arched lines were going to be perfect. 


  • Backing design: I had every intention of making this easy on myself, and just using the single fabric for the backer. But alas, my calculations fell a weeeee bit short, and I didn't quite have enough fabric to make the finished quilt the length I needed. So I improvised (an ongoing theme in my quilting adventures) and decided to add a little set of stripes to the back. This both made the quilt better (visual interest!) and harder (lining things up!) so I'm not sorry exactly...but it certainly was a choice with consequences. If I had it to do over again, I think I maybe would have still done something special on the back, even if it wasn't to bridge a math-gap (I just love flipping a quilt over to find a little surprise!) But I maybe would have thought through how the front and back were going to work together so the actual quilting part wouldn't have been so tricky. 

  • Quilting design: Ok...I can never quite decide what my favorite part of quilting is (it's a tie between planning a pattern, fabric selection, piecing things together, and sewing the binding) but I'm pretty sure I know what my least favorite part is: quilting. The actual process of sandwiching the layers, basting them together, and then sewing for 1 jillion hours, wrestling yards of puffed up fabric, jamming it all through a much too small machine, adjusting the tension, endlessly switching colors and re-threading bobbins. Yes, the quilting part. Not always a fan. This falls squarely in the "wrong tool for the job" category of problems. Pretty much anything larger than a crib sized quilt calls for a long arm. My machine (ok...and my talent) has its limits- from a size and intricacy perspective, so I can technically do my own quilting but it's definitely not my strongest skill. I have hired a professional quilter before, made use of a friend's set up, and tried renting time on the long arm at Joann, but for the most part I've just been making it work on my own (it's certainly the most economical option...and despite how lonnnnnnnng it takes me, it's still faster than sending it out for someone else to do it). I knew this one would be a little tricky, but ended up being putting it a bit mildly. I  followed the same design that I did for the baby versions of this quilt- straight lines on the stripes, diagonals to match the mountain angles, and a sunburst in the middle, so I at least had a little experience with my plan of attack. But I had some trouble with my spray basting (I tried a new product and did not have it's really hard to find an open clean spot to spray a quilt of this size) so I had to pin it together instead. I've never done that before, and it ended up having areas that weren't quite smooth. Whiiiiiiiich I didn't realize until I was deep into quilting. There were a few areas that puckered and folded up wonky, so I had to seam rip and start over on a few spots. In the end, there are still some spots that I'm less than proud of, but again, I try to focus on the intention and know that it's less about perfect results and more about the thought and effort behind it all.  
  • Timeline: Will I never learn? Apparently I thrive under pressure (or am a glutton for punishment) because while I had about a month to work on this project, I dragged my feet and didn't really get going until a week before her departure. All told it was about 22 hours of work split over 10 days. I don't love the feeling of my back being against a wall, but it is an effective motivator!

  • Media of choice while I worked: Ugh. Nothing great. After the high of watching the Olympics every night (one of the major reasons I delayed putting serious time in on the quilt), I couldn't quite get into anything. I hopped around a bunch of nothing-noteworthy on Netflix, and listened to most of The People You Meet on Vacation. But didn't find anything that kept me entertained and motivated.
  • New thing I tried/learned: This was a pretty improvisational project...partly because it was designed to follow more of a loose plan, and partly because I kept making mistakes that required some pivoting. Noteably- running out of binding when I had literally one inch left. WHYYYYYYYYYY? I refused to admit defeat on the eve of final completion, so I turned that issue into an opportunity for a little extra design detail. I decided to do a little section of pop colors pieced together to bridge the gap in the binding (apparently the unofficial theme of this quilt is: "stripes to the rescue"). I was really nervous that it wasn't going to turn out how I imagined (I didn't want it to look like a patch covering up a mistake...even if that is pretty much what it was) but in the end it's one of my favorite parts of the quilt. It's another unexpected little twist, and a reminder that for better or worse, this is a one of a kind piece.

  • Final thoughts: I didn't adore every step of the process with this one...but despite the struggles, there's still nothing quite like the feeling of wrapping yourself up in the fruit of your labor. Or in this case, wrapping someone else up in it. I love all my quilty babies (even if some of them give me more trouble than others!) and I am thankful for the chance to learn and grow (and have something beautiful to show for all the mind-bending work of it all). We're going to miss Ali, but I'm excited for her Arizona Adventures, and happy to be able to provide a little piece of home to bridge the gap into her next phase. Sleep well, sunshine!


Pattern: Based on the NightSky Quilt, with custom adjustments to make it a twin
Finished size: Twin- Roughly 72" x 90"
Total Time spent: 22 hours 
Cost: Maybe it's a little tacky to talk about this (it was a gift after all) but I think it's interesting to know what goes into projects like this, so I'll share. I didn't keep track super accurately, but all in, it's roughly $120. (For reference, the baby quilts were approx $65 for both, which I attribute to a combination of less expensive fabric, better coupons/deals, smaller size, and more effeciency with making two of the same thing).
Fabric: JoAnn's brand solids & Kona Cotton solids (some purchased at Quilt Beginnings) Backing fabric: Quilter's Showcase: Oasis Modern Geo 
Custom name tags: Mission Market Co. I ran out of the first batch she made, so she whipped up a new design for my next round (here's the listing for the tags...but I dare you to browse her shop and NOT find something you NEED.)
Binding: Cluck Cluck Sew machine binding tutorial, using three 3yd packs of double fold bias tape.
Batting: Pellon Nature's Touch Cotton Batting Twin Size 72"x90"

P.S. See more quilty goodness: here on the blog, or on IG via #bowdenismsews

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