Thursday, December 20, 2012

christmas in Germany

Hello to everyone reading my blog today and thank you for dropping by.

As a multi-cultural family, it isn't always easy keeping up the traditions you had as a child. Over the years, I have learned that I must step back a bit and allow my children to experience the culture they live in as well as try to keep my own traditions alive.

I would like to share with you how Christmas is celebrated in Germany for most Christian families. Christmas Eve, December 24th, is the most special day and counts as Christmas or "Heiligabend." This is the day when the immediate family celebrates. Most families will have a Christbaum that is either bought, recycled (plastic) or is cut down in the forest (with permission of course). Some families decorate the Christmas tree together, but most will be decorated by the parents on December 24, right before presents are opened. The size of a tree is generally smaller than in America. The cost ranges between 15€ and 60€. To prevent the children in the house from seeing the tree being decorated, the windows in the living room will usually be covered or the door will be locked. Decorations on the tree will usually be uniform and simple with handmade straw ornaments and uni-colored balls.
After the tree is decorated, the family goes to church in the evening and returns home to find presents under a decorated Christmas tree. This is usually prompted by a single ringing bell which signals that the Christkind (or Christ-Child, visually known as an angel) has come, has spontaneously decorated the tree and delivered presents, especially for the still growing children in the house. The presents will then be opened right before the children go to bed. A light dinner may also usually served in the evening.

December 25 is known as the first Christmas day and is spent with grandparents where the Christkind has also come and delivered yet more presents. This is usually the day where the larger extended family comes together and celebrates with a more formal dinner and present exchange.

December 26 is known as the second Christmas day and is usually spent with friends. This usually works out well for families who go to their children's grandparents home to celebrate. It gives the parents a chance to catch up with their friends who they have not seen in a while. It is also really nice to take advantage of the grandparents as babysitters so the parents can have an evening out.

Since we are an American-German family, we try to incorporate both traditions of the Christkind and Santa Claus. Additionally, there is another fellow who comes into the picture - Sankt Nikolaus or St. Nick who visits on December 6 and leaves behind little goodies for the children in their shoes. How to explain all of this to your child?  My children believe that Santa and St. Nick are brothers and all those men and women wearing Santa clothing in the stores and in public are just helpers, because Santa is majorly busy at the North Pole getting all those presents ready.

I wish you and your families a very happy holiday season filled with loving memories, peaceful moments and a healthy/prosperous new year.

Yours truly,
Karen

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

how colors change your mood

My husband and I have been looking through a lot of flooring catalogs lately, because we will be redoing the floors in the house (from top to bottom). In the process, I came along a really good company that separated their flooring into these five basic categories. I kept going back to this diagram to explain to my hubby how the different floor colors and textures change my mood.

For instance, in my living room, I like rich dark, walnut colors and dark reds - something that makes me feel warm and comforted. At the end of the day, I just want to snuggle on the sofa with my family, light a few candles and drink a glass of burgundy. MAN CAVE

As a total contrast, in my sewing room and in the kitchen, I like a fresh color scheme that keeps me on track - keeps me focused. Here I would like maple, birch, beech, or an old barn type of flooring - "Eichesägerau!" I am really trying to push this idea through. NATURE 

I will have my own sewing room soon, {yahoo} and I did a little research to get ideas for setting it up. I found quite a few rooms with white painted furniture and lots of color or no color. That's just out of my comfort zone. I need a little bit of warmth with light yellows.

In the children's rooms, it should be friendly and inviting. My kids will be playing in their rooms (hopefully), and it should make them happy and coordinate with lots of bright and friendly colors. NATURE or BEACH

Now, generally, we have lots of white in the bathroom. I guess it just goes hand-in-hand with water and "cleanliness." You always see lots of white in the hospital as well. BEACH

In the bedroom, I think we will be going for that spicy feeling with rich reds and yellows. AUTUMN 

We went with a beach type of feeling with light blues in our last apartment and another time with light purple and beech wood, but is really hard to pull off a romantic feeling in these colors. It still remained cool.

And lastly getting to the urban color of gray/grey. I know this is very modern, especially for quilts. I find this color really hard to get comfortable with. It gives me the heebie jeebies. I had one appointment with a female gynecologist who had her office decorated totally in this urban feeling - cement, cinder block walls, black leather sofas with metal detailing. I felt so uncomfortable there. I wanted a female doctor, but the textures and colors made me feel very uneasy. Needless to say, I never went back to her simply because of her office. URBAN

When I design quilts, some say that I like "gedeckte Farben." I don't really know what that means but translates to muted colors. I know I am drawn to dark fall colors. I have a nice collection of very traditional bicentennial fabrics in my fabric bins, but that's not really me. I think I bought them all, because that's what the market was telling me that I wanted. Or that was the only thing that was available when I bought them six years ago. Anyone want to swap fabrics?? I have some great old prints. I really like a collection of colors. I am an eclectic contiseur. I also recently realized my own style. I can work with the urban (20-ten) color palette, but I have to mix in one other rich color to "make it mine."

So, we will continue to look for the perfect flooring. Now that we have this little helper, it is easier for us to make a decision, at least a step in the right direction.

Keep sewing and look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

TradMod für Lilli FERTIG!

I finished my very first customer quilt today and am very pleased with the results. My German customer, Beate, contacted me a couple of months ago to sew together a memory quilt for her daughter from her daughter's baby clothing. I was totally honored to create such a lovely quilt for Lilli. I will post more pictures after the family receives their quilt, so they are the first to be totally surprised.

Beate decided on a traditional on point pattern with a 4 x 5 layout. I showed her a couple of sketches with light pinks and grays, but she wanted something really bright and cheery. I found the main fabric "Apple of my Eye" from the Quilted Fish for Riley Blake and added fabrics that matched, one white with pink polka dots from Tilda. I found a really pretty pink flannel from Debbie Mumm for Moda and used as the cuddly backing.

I knew I needed about 20 pieces of clothing to make a nice quilt and sorted out mainly the light pastels and white fabrics. These were going to be the center of my blocks. I backed all of the baby clothing patches with a stabilizer to keep the jersey fabric from pulling. To really set the out baby clothing fabrics, I used the bright fabrics all around.

The quilt went together rather easy after everything was well planned and decided. We wanted to keep it simple (kiss) or simple, easy, practical (sep). I asked a good friend and long arm quilter, Brigitte to quilt it for me. She came up with a really beautiful design totally in line with the theme - apples and love. A picture of the quilting will have to wait a while though -  until my customer receives her quilt. I am really impressed with Brigitte's quilting. She always has the greatest ideas and is a true quilt artist and fabric designer if you don't already know that.

I finished off the quilt with a striped binding from the Sugar and Spice series from Riley Blake using my typical 3/8" width double fold binding and closed with a running stitch. Even though this takes the longest time, it is worth that tedious effort. The only other way to close the binding, that I like, I found via Pat Sloan using a buttonhole stitch to close from the front. I use this mostly on baby blankets or "Krabbeldecken."

So, this very bright and cheery memory quilt will find a new home over the holidays. Every one of my quilts is a piece of me and I am honored to give this one to a family who values handmade blankets.

Thank you for commenting on my post. It encourages me to continue, especially on those overwhelming overcast days. I love and need the sunshine!!

Yours truly,
Karen

Thursday, November 29, 2012

new project for Moda Bake Shop

I've been working on a great new project for Moda Bake Shop using one 10" Layer Cake. I submitted my design back in Sept/October and was completely floored when they contacted me. They actually said my pattern was good enough for their site. I even got to pick out the fabric that I wanted for the new improved lap quilt. I couldn't resist to pick the new fabric line from Kate Spain, my favorite designer, that comes out in January.

So here is a little sneaky peaky of "prairie Traditions" for Moda Bake Shop. It should be "premiering" in December 2012 or January 2013.

Honey Honey by Kate Spain for Moda Fabrics
All you need for the quilt top
If you would like to make this pattern, I would love to see your finished quilt. Please post them on flickr under prairie Traditions. Or send me a jpeg, and I will post on my website. 

I am looking forward to writing more patterns for you in 2013! :-)

Bis dann und schöne Grüße
Karen

Friday, November 16, 2012

service your sewing machine

Right before we went on vacation this past year, my husband suggested to me that I have my sewing machine serviced while we were away. It never really dawned on me that I should have my machine "serviced." 

There wasn't anything wrong with the machine, but I had noticed a few months earlier that the thread was starting to stick a little and not produce even stitches. I cleaned out the machine myself, but you can never really get into all of those tiny places. I have a Pfaff 2034 which collects a lot of thread in the area where the light is. While I was doing my own cleaning, I thought I should ask my husband if he had some type of keyboard cleaner to clean it out, so I was happy when he suggested having my sewing machine professionally serviced.

My good German husband, who always thinks about these things, set up the appointment and even dropped it off for me. My husband told me my machine would go missing for jsut one week and not to panic, but I didn't even notice that it was gone!

I picked up my machine after we returned from vacation and got settled back home. I saw that the service man had tested it out with several different stitches on a nice thick pieced of folded denim and the tension was perfectly aligned again. He scolded me and said I should oil it once in a while. Okay, I thought you never had to oil these newer machines...that's what they told me when I bought it?!?! As an avid sewing, I pledged to myself to oil my bobbin area when the stitches are slightly off or when it starts to get a little exhausted from my vigorous workouts.

And, it doesn't cost the world to have it serviced. I paid 55€. Considering the price of the machine and how long I have had it, I thought it completely reasonable. I love my machine and don't see that I am going to part with it for a long time. One great thing about it is the dual voltage which I have never used, but being practical person as I am, I thought about it when I bought it. ;-)

Friday, November 9, 2012

TradMod for Lilli



This past week I finished up the top to a children's quilt and am really pleased with the results. My customer wanted to recycle the baby clothes from her daughter's first year into a bed quilt. We worked intensively together and came up up with with a bright and simple traditional pattern using "Apple of My Eye" from the Quilted Fish for Riley Blake Designs. I added a little "Sugar and Spice" for the binding and inner border.

 I really enjoyed working with Beate. At first I showed her very subdued pastel colors but was thrilled when she steered me back to my favorite color palette of red and turquoise! Riley Blake Designs has really fantastic fabric for children's quilts and you can basically mix and match fabric lines.

I fussy cut motifs from onesies and mostly jersey fabrics. I backed them with iron-on stabilizer which keeps the fabric from stretching when you sew it into another block.

The backing is made of cuddly flannel. Quite fitting to the apple theme is Debbie Mumms' Love U flannel from Moda. The entire quilt measures about 160 x 180 cm.

It is simply adorable!

I thought it only fitting to give this special blanket the full service, so I arranged for B. Heitland to quilt it for me. I strongly believe that Brigitte is one of the best long arm quilters here in Germany!! I can't wait to get it back and see her amazing quilting creativity.

I will post the finished quilt when everything in finished.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

happy halloween

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year and is slowing starting to come here to Germany. About five years ago, no one did anything for Halloween. Now, you can find parties and some of the kids even go trick or treating. I passed out treats in Kindergarten one year and even told about the tradition and how it came about. It is actually a very old Celtic holiday.

We will carve our pumpkins tonight and light them to scare away the evil spirits who lurk the darkness before "Allerheiligen." If my kids decide to dress up, I even have a few ghostly treats for them.


Here is a table topper I made for Halloween a couple of years ago. I never quite finished it, but I still wanted to share. It is one of those patterns that you just have to make, and it doesn't matter when - just do it. It was featured in the September/October issure of Quiltmaker in 2009 No. 129. It was designed by Marilyn Larson of of North Dakota. Mine is still lacking the finishing touches such as the eye lashes, backing, quilting..finishing.

I also made a Scribbles Monsters II wallhanging last year. The panel is from Clothworks. And yes, it isn't finished either. I added some "Juggling Summer" fabric to it which gave it a nice modern feel. Hope you enjoy. You can see the rest of the photos on my flickr feed here.



Happy Halloween! Stay safe. Don't eat too much candy! Give out some healthy treats too such as tattoos or pencils.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

snow before Halloween?

It started yesterday morning with a slight snow fall. The temperature was just right around 0°C, so I didn't think it was going to stay around very long. Even so, my tradition goes, with the first snow fall I always bake something usually fluffy white loaf bread. Since we already had a lot of bread in the house, I decided to make my favourite "German Chocolate Cake". 


In the evening, after dinner, and we were enjoying our dessert, I was surprised to see the snow still there. We accumulated about two inches which was quite a lot considering it isn't even November yet. (I remember a couple of years ago when my dad was visiting us, and the same thing happened. It snowed in October!) 

Needless to say, I went to bed and was surprised to see that we had twice as much snow today as we did yesterday. I am not ready for winter. My kids kept yelling...."es ist Weihnachten." And I told them that we hadn't even had Halloween yet! I still wanted to buy pumpkins tomorrow and carve them. This seems a little strange for me. My husband is outside right now putting on the winter tires on the cars. Better late than never?!

It did strike a new feeling in me though. I am looking forward to winter and new winter designs especially for Christmas. Seeing the white snow brightens my spirits, and is always more enjoyable than an overcast gray sky. Enjoy your week!

Karen

Monday, October 22, 2012

Do you remember Grananimals??

When I was little, my sister, Kittie & I loved to go shopping for Garanimal clothing with my mother. It was the most awesome way to pick out clothing for yourself. All you had to do was pick the same animal for the top and for the bottom and your clothes matched. I think there were different types of animal like zebras, hippos, giraffes, etc. The company was started in 1972, the same year I was born!

I asked my sister a couple of years ago if Garanimals were still made, because I wanted to introduce my kids to them, and apparently they are. Although they went out of business for a while, they were actually relaunched in 2008. I have yet to see the new Garanimals, but have found my own version right here in Germany.

I love to go shopping and decided that I was going to buy real outfits for my daughter this year, no flee market finds, no hand-me-downs. She had an abundance of clothing in the past, and I just wanted to get her a few new really good outfits that she could mix and match herself. I found a really cool store that provided me with the "Garanimal - mix and match" feel. It is just too bad, there aren't those cute little animal tags on the tops and bottoms for the clothing that she could pick them out herself.

It was just too cute this morning when my daughter came to us in a different mix and match outfit of brown tights, patchwork skirt, brown top and fur west and told her papa that everything matched (in DEnglish).

If you are interested in learning more about Garanimals check it out here at Wikepedia.

As a designer thinking about Garanimals, is this my approach to patchwork design? Do I take the matching colors and fabrics from a standard fabric collection or line and stay within that frame to make everything match or do I challenge myself? How do you do it? Do you prefer the "garanimal approach" to quilt design or do you put together your own? I would like to hear from you and know what you think?

Friday, October 12, 2012

my philosophy

I like to work according to the SEP approach - simple, easy, practical.

simple
Simplicity seems to be the catch word of our decade especially when it comes to making quilts. You will find countless number of books on this subject. Slow down, enjoy life, make it simple, there's no rush. I like simple designs and like to make use of a little bit of color. I have never been one who collected a lot of things and this is carried over to my designs.

I like to balance even if it is an asymmetrical design. A good quilt is like my daily outfit - a good pair of modern dark jeans, a neutral long sleeve t-shirt, a knitted sweater jacket and a bright print scarf and of course, my shoes always have to match my purse and belt. Make-up is optional, of course.
easy
If it is too complicated, I just don't want to do it! I am sewing a sampler with my other patchwork friends in a "real time class" for 2012. Almost every week I go to class and try to work on a block. If you have ever worked on a sampler, you know that it just gets frustrating after a while. It is time consuming to cut out the templates and sew it all together and that twelve blocks times over. I think we all need a "quickie" every now and then just to put a spark back in our lives. I find myself avoiding the sampler and finding everything else to do instead. 

practical
Okay, I am just practical by nature. My mother drilled-in to me to just do something right and do it once. No hassles. Since I am basically a lazy person by nature, I trained myself to find the most practical way to do that with the littlest amount of effort and carried this principle over to patchwork. Shortcuts are great when they produce the same results. I mainly make blankets because they are practical and are always used. Table runners might be only used once in a year. Purses might only be used for three months and then discarded.

Here, in Germany, patchwork is "back to the roots." Quilting fabrics are not that easy to come by. When you are lucky enough to find a gem of a fabric store, be prepared to spend a pretty €uro cent. Why? The large manufacturers produce their fabrics in Asia, have then sent to the United States for sale, and are bought from EU importers and imported to Germany. Everyone has to have their cut and import tax is high. Basically, a meter (a little more than one yard), costs about 16,50€; that includes a German sales tax of 19%. A basic quilt has about 8 meters of fabric equallying 130€! I am so impressed when I see my German patchwork friends coming up with stunning quilts, table runners, pillow cases, etc. just from old bedding or even worn out jeans! Now that is patchwork! Here in Germany, those scraps are VALUABLE! So, when I see a wonky cut block or a technique that scraps a lot of my fabrics, I shy away. I am half German from my mentality and am a GO GREENer! I separate my trash and buy organic when it is economical, i.e. not imported from Australia but rather produced in Austria or France.

Keep patching and thanks for stopping by. Next time, grab yourself a cup of warm coffee before you start.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

5 Ways to Spark your Creativity

Hello to you all, probably for the very first time, since I don't normally use this blog to post my thoughts, but hey, why not. Thanks for stopping by.

How do I spark my creativity? I am in the patchwork pattern design, and sometimes, I have to do the unusual to get my juices flowing.

  1. I GO SHOPPING - Now, this might sound stupid, but I do it. Yeah, some of us use this as an excuse to get out and not do our real job. Not me. I find it very inspirational. I like to see how different colors are paired together in the clothing stores. What colors would I wear? What colors make me feel good? Are they trend colors, seasonal or classic? Do I see any eye candy? Would I buy it? Candy is candy right!? What is also really cool, is seeing how patchwork has an influence on the fashion industry. Look at children's clothing and see what motifs are used. What appeals to kids? You will see abstract, bargellos and floral prints that you wish you could use in a new blanket or purse. Get your inspiration from your favorite clothing store. Just like you find your own style with clothing, you also have your own style with designing!
  2. I LOOK THROUGH MAGAZINES. Although this sounds just like the previous entry, it can be any magazine, not just fashion. Look at a decorating, food, political, auto, childrens', etc. Look at everything, the ads,the editorials, fine print, the credits, the back page!
  3. I GO ON A NATURE WALK. That's right. Go to a park or walk through a public forest to get your inspiration flowing. Look at how mother nature has created natural patterns in everything around you - leaves, bark, water ripples, cloud formations moss clumps, insects, footprints, etc. Take a look at the colors. How do they change throughout the different seasons? Do you see any eye candy or color blocking here?? 
  4. I TAKE MY CAMERA OUT AND LET IT WORK FOR ME. Take pictures off your hip. Let the camera focus and see what comes on the screen. I really enjoy this when we go family outings. It saves a big hassle of stopping, framing and focusing. Look at the photos later and see what you find. I bet you will be surprised!
  5. I COLOR WITH THE KIDS ?? Think outside of the box or get back to basics. How do you color? Do you outline and then color in? Do you mix colors? Do you shade? Do you make patterns in the clothing? What did you decide to color in and why? Did you see any items that could make a cool pattern? Modern, traditional, childish?
Try just one of these to spark your creativity. Tell me if it worked. Challenge yourself to think outside the box. Do the unusual. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

birthdays

rainbow cake with jelly beans and marshmallowsMy little girl is not so little anymore.  She celebrated her 5th birthday.  She is such a cutie pie, my little sunshine.  As with every birthday, I like to spoil the kids with a homemade cake for school, Kindergarten or home.  My daughter named at least five different cakes that she wanted me to make.  I decided on a rainbow sheet cake for Kindergarten and a store bought cake for her birthday party.  Yes, I bought a birthday cake.  My sister was proud of me.  Since there were only four/five guests to her birthday party, I thought it fit not to worry too much about a lot of baking and there were no siblings at the party either.  This really makes things easier.

Not only did my daugther celebrate her birthday, I also celebrated my 40th.  It is ALMOST hard to believe that I am THAT old.  Would I trade it for being 18 again?  NO.  I am happier than ever and know what I want from life.  Most importantly, I am independent and self-sufficient.  Although I notice I let my husband take care of certain things like bill payment, I still rely on myself to get things done.  No one is here to take care of you.  You have to make your own way in life, your own goals, ambitions, strengths, desires.  Find out what you are good at it and let it take flight.

Happy Birthday to all those who have birthdays in the summer.  I love having a summer birthday.  I loved getting an ice cream cake on my birthday...especially from Carvel.

Friday, June 22, 2012

prairie traditions

Last year, I was in love with the colors red, red and even more red.  I made two quilts from two different layer cakes I bought in 2011. The first one I named simply "American Primer" Scrappy Blocks. It was a simple block configuration with a blocky red frame. I put a little more thought into the second one and made a traditional monkey wrench. I didn't make it too large, because I actually wanted to finish it. In the end, it make a nice wallhanging. I am really pleased with the way both of them turned out. Now, I can check this off my list for WIP-List or UFOs as they are known here in Germany.

I have to say, it really makes a quilt even more beautiful when you have them professionally quilted.  I am very happy with my long arm quilter. They are not easy to find. This one was quilted by QDService in Werther.


an ep monkey wrench quilt


Check out more photos on flickr here.
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