Skip to content

Quilt No. 2

April 15, 2016

My friend had her first baby! He is a precious child, and I don’t throw baby compliments around.

Apparently tiny humans are my only excuse to sew (see: here, here and here). The quilt I made for her new baby evolved from something totally flat and lifeless into a piece I ended up really digging. It was super simple and a departure from my very first quilt attempt four years ago.

quilt 2

It began as just rows of navy, grey and cream with backing flecked by white and silver triangles. Here it is looking pretty sad on my living room floor in poor lighting

back 2

After finishing the super simple front, I wasn’t confident that these rows of solid colors could come together into something beautiful. I was doubting myself and the project, but I’d promised my friend a quilt so I kept going. After all, my friend had planned to make the quilt the weekend before her baby was born, but I scoffed and told her to sleep instead. I’d take care of the quilt. This is how I get around to doing anything creative — I put it into the universe that it will happen. If it’s just for me it’s never going to come to fruition. But if it’s for my best friend’s first baby, I’m on it!

Anyway, I plugged ahead, even with that sad, flat row of stripes staring at me. I sandwiched the batting between the front and back layers and pinned everything in place to attempt machine quilting. Turns out that it’s not an easy feat on a little sewing machine, even if the piece only measures 43 x 43 inches.

pre stitching

I rolled it up and wrangled it into my tiny sewing machine, and then I dedicated several hours of stitching contrasting colors to quilt it. I’d start at one corner and zig-zag across to the other  – first with grey thread, then with teal, then yellow and red.

maching wrangling

As the rows of stitches grew, the project became more wieldy. I could flip it around with less furrowing of the brow and biting of the lip (and swearing under my breath), and I soon watched the batting start to puff up as the lines began to intersect and grow closer and closer to one another. Then I became kind of encouraged. It started to transform into a quilt I could get behind. I started to pick out some of my favorite intersections of color, just stopping to admire. My husband even stopped to examine it without my prompting, always giving two thumbs up.

intersection of color

More stitching.


Stitching rows of color over and over actually kind of became an obsession and I wanted to keep going, but I figured it would be good to stop while I was ahead. The worst project mistakes come when I start to overdo things. I have a whole stack of sadly overdone and partially completed projects as proof.

So I snipped my threads, squared my corners and made some binding with the random fabric selection I had. There was some grey left from the front of the quilt, a bit of grey fabric with a sketched cityscape and some bright yellow. I sewed the binding strips of varying lengths together without paying attention to where they would land, then prepped the binding.

At first I’d planned to machine bind the quilt, but after I attached the binding to the front, I realized I didn’t want to risk machine stitches on the front or back that would compete with the colorful and slightly haphazard lines of quilting that made me so happy. And so I embarked on hand stitching the binding. It wasn’t that bad! I spent a chilly weekend drinking beer in the evening while watching shows on Netflix next to my husband and stitched away.

I’m really pleased I took that extra time. See, not too shabby. The triangle side is the back, and you can just see the tiny stitches holding the binding in place.

Hand binding closeup

Because everything I do is rushed and, until lately, natural light was scarce, I don’t have any full pictures of the quilt. This corner of it will have to do. Maybe not an amazing feat for most sewers, but I was really happy to have a project that made me feel back on my sewing game.

What projects have gotten you back into your productive/creative space?

quilt 1

My Fear of Children (and a Mobile)

February 28, 2016

Baby projects are so sweet and perfect, but they kind of freak me out.

When my niece was born, my sister and I made her a quilt. I checked that thing a million times for needles. When I gave it to my brother on the day my niece was born, I asked him to triple check it before he wrapped it around his daughter. It was needle free, but still I had anxiety that something sharp would work its way out and hurt her some day.

Balloon Closeup

Recently I made a mobile for my friend’s first baby. I researched the safest lengths for string to prevent strangling (7″ or less!). I agonized over securing each of the mobile threads to the felt ornaments so they wouldn’t fall off and become a choking hazard — weaving the mobile thread in and out of the fabric, knotting furiously and then securing with fabric glue for extra hold. And when I presented it to her at her baby shower, it didn’t come with any fanfare. It came with my stern warning that, just to be safe, it shouldn’t hang over the crib. Instead it should hang in a corner of the nursery where the baby will never be un-monitored.

I’ve read enough warning labels on everything from clothing to car seats to fear the worst. Always. I don’t want to be the person who gives the gift that hurts the child that has been lovingly nurtured in the womb for nine months.

Up close mobile

Children and their fragileness have always frightened me. I didn’t embrace my role of oldest sibling, and some people think I’m cold because I don’t want kids. But really I just can’t handle the emotional stress that comes with having to protect them. I can hardly consider making a gift for a child that doesn’t cause me to go down the rabbit hole of internet research into potential hazards.Full room Mobile

But I’m happy to report my latest project — the mobile for baby Quinn — is holding up well. And even if it falls apart, it’s placed in the room exactly as I instructed. I’m even happier to report that baby Quinn is healthy and handsome with a full head of hair. Born just last week, he is now home with his mom and dad who are thrilled that he is finally here. I can’t wait to meet him and watch him grow up  and go on all the adventures for which he is destined. I’ll just be watching from a distance with some Xanax in my pocket.

Thanks to my friend, otherwise known as Carbivore, for taking pictures of the mobile in action. She’s super talented at making beautiful babies and delicious baked goods.

The Vocabulary of Creation

January 26, 2016

This week I had to say the words, “grouper in papillote” over and over for a voice project only to realize I had no idea what papillote meant. I was essentially a parrot for a full hour, repeating a pronunciation without understanding exactly what I was saying. Once I left the studio, I looked up papillote and realized “en papillote” is French for “in parchment.” It’s a method of cooking in which the food is put into a folded pouch — typically made of parchment —  and then baked. Simple stuff, but it took me 34 years to learn the word. And I liked the sound of papillote so the word started tumbling around in my head.

I have a few words like that — ones I think about and then roll their sounds around in my mouth. And so many of the words I fall in love with are terms connected to creating.

icing on my (1)

Trapunto. Steek. Thrum. Sashiko. Weft.

Say them all. Aren’t they fun?

Well, fun to say. Yes.

Fun to do? I don’t know yet because I’ve never tried.

But I feel like the shape of each word on the tongue should feel like the act of creating that they define. Is that strange? Probably, but it feels kind of true. Trapunto is produced by the action of a needle machine-quilting fabric to produce an overstuffed decorative feature. The repetition of the needle in the fabric makes a sharp staccato sound, which feels right for trapunto. Steek sounds sharp, thrum sounds soft and sashiko is just really pleasing so I have to include it.

Weft is the term for the thread that is drawn through warp threads to create cloth. Warp is lengthwise and weft crosses the warp. While weft isn’t a technique, all the others are. And I feel like I need to use them all as techniques and understand them as actions — not just say them. So I’m putting them on my project to-do list this year.

I’ll have to let you know if the techniques live up to the hype (created entirely in my head, based on the way the words sound).

What are some of your favorite crafting, cooking and creating terms?

Inside January

January 17, 2016

I’m not a resolution person, but going into 2016 I said I wanted a better work/life balance. Last year was great for professional growth — I wrote some serious grants and got some serious money for great causes, created some scripts (for corporations, not for creativity’s sake), got some super-cool marketing pieces in place and had more voice over work than ever before (which isn’t saying much, but still). But I spent a lot of evenings on the couch with my laptop after already long days. And even though I wrote a lot, I wrote very boring and pretty clinical things.  This was a blow to the Claire from 15 years ago who dreamed of creative writing. I’ve forgotten how to tell a story that twists and turns. I’ve forgotten how to do a lot of things, in fact.

To make things even worse, I created nothing. I mean NOTHING. Didn’t pick up scissors or get out the sewing machine or even untangle yarn for a knit project. I actually turned my sewing room into a home office and packed away all my sewing supplies. Thus, the resolution.

So this month I’ve been fitting in projects when I can and trying to ignore that nagging feeling I might be dropping the ball on an upcoming deadline. Despite that nagging, it’s been really refreshing. Here’s what January looks like so far.


Knitting with some special wool donated from Crockett, Legacy and Aries. What generous alpacas!

hot air balloon pattern 2

Whipped up some patterns for a hot air balloon mobile, based on these styles, for my college bud who is having her first baby this spring.

Hot Air balloon full

After a year off from crafting, I forgot the time it takes to complete a project, which is why my images of the finished mobile and the matching felt banner aren’t pictured. The lighting wasn’t good enough at 3 am the night before the shower to take finished product pictures. But I finished it (!) and had such satisfaction for having at least one project complete in the first week of January.


We also were in a rut with food, which made me feel dull. I mean, it was a totally delicious rut with black bean noodles or sweet potatoes covered in veggies practically every night. But it’s always nice to make something new. So I made granola for my husband this weekend, along with a fancy roast and some delicious freekah and kumquat nonsense based on this recipe from Blue Apron.


While I baked, Regan peeled, chopped and strained to set us up with a week of potions. Turmeric & ginger concentrate for drinks, cold brew coffee, freshly made coconut milk and ginger & carrot salad dressing.

Apple and satsuma

It might be because the sun is out today or it might just be the slightly different routine, but everything feels really good. January can stick around for a little longer if it’s going to treat us like this.




Another Post About Kale

August 2, 2015

The internet doesn’t need more kale recipes. I almost didn’t post this for that very reason, but then my husband reminded me the internet wouldn’t exist without unnecessary and redundant information.

And I’m not posting kale recipes because it’s trendy. I’m posting kale recipes because it’s all I grew this summer so it’s all we eat. Seriously. All my meals are kale-based some days — including breakfast — so I guess we’ll start there.

Maple Kale with Bacon and Eggs

Bacon and Eggs kale


  • 20 leaves of curly leaf kale (approx 160 grams of kale or 8 cups of roughly chopped kale)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 Tablespoon bacon grease
  • 4 pieces of bacon
  • 4 eggs

1. Remove kale from the stems and roughly chop or tear leaves. Then rinse and spin or pat dry.
2. Heat bacon until crispy. Drain grease from bacon, saving 1/2 T. of grease for the dressing. Chop bacon and set aside.
3. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, maple syrup and bacon grease until incorporated.
4. In a large mixing bowl, toss kale with the dressing. Use your hands to massage it lightly, evenly covering all the leaves. The kale should turn slightly brighter green and be a little shinier, but it won’t be  heavily coated. Kale will reduce from about 8 cups to 6 cups.
5. Fry eggs in butter over easy or over medium.
5. Split kale between two* plates, top with freshly prepared eggs and sprinkle with bacon pieces.

*We eat a lot of kale. Obviously this can serve more people if you aren’t on board for cups of kale for breakfast… or any other meal.

Stone Fruit & Goat Cheese with Honey Kale

Honey Kale(1)

This is my go-to for lunch most days during the week, paired with a few ounces of chicken. And I still look forward to it every day.


  • 20 leaves of curly leaf kale (approx 160 grams of kale or 8 cups of roughly chopped kale)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 peaches (or nectarines), cut into 1/2 cubes
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1. Remove kale from the stems and roughly chop or tear leaves. Then rinse and spin or pat dry.
2. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, honey and olive oil until incorporated.
3. In a large mixing bowl, toss kale with the dressing. Use your hands to massage it lightly, evenly covering all the leaves. The kale should turn slightly brighter green and be a little shinier, but it won’t be  heavily coated. Kale will reduce from about 8 cups to 6 cups.
5. Split kale between two plates, top each with a chopped peach and an ounce of the crumbled goat cheese.

Honey Kale with Lemon Tahini Dressing and Kefta Meatballs

Tahini Kale

This combo with honey kale and tahini dressing stems from my love affair with the Buddha Bowl at Ezra’s Enlightened Cafe in Broad Ripple. I can’t quite get their version right, but playing around with the flavors I like led to this, which ended up as a good thing.

For the Kale


  • 20 leaves of curly leaf kale (approx 160 grams of kale or 8 cups of roughly chopped kale)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil

1. Remove kale from the stems and roughly chop or tear leaves. Then rinse and spin or pat dry.
2. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, honey and olive oil until incorporated.
3. In a large mixing bowl, toss kale with the dressing. Use your hands to massage it lightly, evenly covering all the leaves. The kale should turn slightly brighter green and be a little shinier, but it won’t be  heavily coated. Kale will reduce from about 8 cups to 6 cups.

Set aside

For the Tahini Dressing (adapted from The Detoxinista)


  • 1/2 cup raw tahini
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup water, or more for desired consistency

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Add more water to thin, if desired.

For the Kefta (based on this recipe)


  • 1 pound lamb or ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped — approx 8 sprigs
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons oil

1. Place all ingredients except oil in a large bowl and knead together. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
2. Remove meat from refrigerator and form the mixture into balls the size of golf balls (makes about 10).
3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Heat until browned on all sides and cooked through.

Split the honey kale between two plates and top with preferred amount of tahini dressing and kefta.

And if salads aren’t your thing, you can just shove lots and lots of kale into any other dish you are making — like zucchini noodles, my other obsession this summer. So good.

What’s your go-to summer food?

Zuke noodles 2

The Alphabet Shoppe

January 2, 2015

During the summer of 1998 I worked at a summer camp — not as a counselor or any of those  roles one might someday remember fondly. I was the Dining Hall Steward.

What’s that, you ask?

It’s the person who makes meals run smoothly by calming hundreds of screaming kids and introducing each menu item. On a microphone. As a 17-year-old with angst,  braces and zero confidence, this wasn’t an ideal situation.

Between meals I would spend my time prepping dinners for cabins going on overnights. I washed potatoes and packed  aluminum foil for hobo dinners; made sure everyone had plenty of marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers for s’mores; and wrote notes to the cabin groups with cooking instructions and well-wishes for a lovely evening in the woods. These notes were the one connection I felt like I had to the counselors who were nearly my age and who I imagined to be my friends if only I weren’t so terrified of every single one of them. So instead of getting to know these counselors through conversation, I would carefully craft each letter on these notes. I hoped so much that my handwriting would convey something to them — maybe make them think I was more than just the girl in the kitchen, someone delightful and interesting. It never worked (surprise!).

Years later, though, when I met my now husband I realized that that summer working on my handwriting had paid off.  A week after we first met I wrote him a check for something. Upon looking at it he said, “I’m going to have trouble cashing this. Your handwriting.” And that’s pretty much when I knew I’d found my person.

All this reminiscing to say I love letters. And even though I rarely write without a keyboard anymore and I created nothing handwritten over the holidays, I had fun focusing on letters this Christmas.

First a recycled sweater stocking to round out a set for our friends who had a new addition.

stocking 1

Then initial ornaments for my sister and her boyfriend to celebrate their first Christmas in their first apartment in a new state. They are made from a sweater and decorated with French knots.

SA 4

SA 2

SA 3

Finally, I created a fabric letter collection for my two-year-old niece who is off the charts with smarts. Made from fabric scrap on the front and old t-shirts on the back, they represent the entire alphabet with a few extra vowels thrown in. They are all collected in a handy little matching bag fit for her to carry around.

letters 2

letters 6

letters 1

Luckily I’m past the point of feeling like my personality can be reflected solely through letters, but there’s something really satisfying about creating freehand letters for projects, even if they are nothing fancy. Hopefully putting chalk to fabric put me on the path to put pen to paper in 2015 so I can reclaim that handwriting I worked so hard for nearly 20 years ago.

What gifts did you create this year?

The Princess and the Pea

October 26, 2014

My sewing machine has been on a shelf since I made the McCall’s 6442 jacket in January, and my blog has basically been on the shelf since then too. But when the temperature fell below 50 degrees earlier this month I got out some yarn and knitting needles (my crafting gateway drug), and the sewing machine soon followed.

This past week my niece celebrated her second birthday and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to create a super simple and sweet gift. Several years ago I saw a post on Amanda Blake Soule’s blog about a princess and the pea set she and her daughter had made together. It really charmed me and has lingered in my mind since that time as a great gift for a little girl.

the princess & the pea (2)

I loved Hans Christian Andersen’s, The Princess and the Pea growing up. Scratch that, I remember loving the story, but really think I just loved the idea of mattresses stacked high. I’ve always been a champion napper and a sucker for layers of comforters filled with down. However, reading through the story after I bought the book this week (which is nearly impossible to find anywhere in Indianapolis), I realized that the prince has ridiculous standards for a wife, his mom — the Queen — won’t allow him to “lower” himself by marrying anyone but a princess and the princess is definitely not the caliber of girl anyone should strive to be. I mean, if a pea keeps you up all night you probably aren’t going very far in life. Consider that, Princess Polly. But by the time I actually read the story, the gift was made (all but the princess) and I decided I’ll just spend the rest of my niece’s life providing her examples of empowered women. I will not make her a Donna Reed outfit next birthday, promise.

The set comes with nine mattresses made with scrap fabric on the front with recycled t-shirts on the back. Each measures about 6″x9″ and has a little bit of fiber fill inside, which is kept in place by some straight lines of quilting.

mattreses (2)

Mattresses piled so high clearly need to be accessed by a ladder, which my husband was happy to create using twigs from the back yard. He also created our little double-sided princess (using the book illustrations by Dubravka Kolanovic) who has eyes wide open on one side and eyes closed on the other. I wanted to make a fabric doll to go with the set initially, but soon realized that I didn’t want to get my niece into Voodoo at such a young age (because that princess was going to look like one scary spell-casting doll).

ladder, pea, princess

I made a tiny pea using a bit of fiberfill with green thread wound around and stitched through. I’m a little concerned about it being a choking hazard, but maybe her mom and dad can put the pea in a safe place until she’s old enough to play with it properly. In the meantime she can stack and pack the mattresses away in the bag I made. My mom let me know that stacking and organizing is one of her favorite activities these days.

the pea (2)

the peas (2)

The mattresses, ladder, princess and the pea all fit in a customized little tote bag with pockets on the front. It too was made with scrap fabric and scrap leather. The thread, as with all my projects, came from my great grandma’s stash that was passed to my grandma, and then to me.

Projects like this are so much fun. Quick, collaborative, successful and resourceful. I almost feel confident enough to start on a bigger sewing project soon.

bag & princess (2)

Apricot Kale Salad

October 19, 2014

kale blog 1 (2)

This summer we were strolling through downtown Nashville, TN on a nearly 100 degree day seeking shade and an escape from the competing music blasting from each bar. That’s when we turned down a small street and saw PUB 5 with closed doors and no music at all – just a soccer game playing in the background and mostly empty tables. It was the perfect space to settle in, get some drinks and read through the exhibit brochure I’d just picked up at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts exploring Maira Kalman’s Elements of Style. I love Strunk & White’s writing style guide anyway, but Kalman’s whimsical illustrations make it an adventure, not just a reference book. You should check it out.

But back to the restaurant, what I ordered and the reason for this post.

All the Tennessee biscuits and road trip snacks had caught up with me so I just wanted a simple salad. What I got was so much more. This apricot kale salad uses a tangy apricot vinaigrette that is lightly massaged into the kale. This simple salad would stand alone, but then it’s topped with dried apricots and Parmesan cheese. It became our summer go-to after I learned to recreate it. And it was a perfect summer for this salad because our garden actually produced. The kale was in full force through June and I was so sad when I harvested the last of our spring crop. Now that the summer heat has faded, our fall crop of kale is growing again and I’m eagerly anticipating all the fresh kale salads we’ll soon have again.

You can make this salad with any type of kale, but soft curly blue baby kale, cut fresh from your garden, is really the way to go if you can.

kale blog 3 (2)

Apricot Kale Salad


  • 5 fresh apricots, pitted
  • 2 Tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons honey

1. Mix all dressing ingredients together in food processor or blender until smooth.

2. Store in airtight container in refrigerator until ready to use. Lasts approximately a week.


(Salads are an imperfect creation. Everyone likes different amounts of dressing and toppings so use the amounts below as very flexible guidelines to make the salad that best suits you.)

  • About 10 heaping cups of kale, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a large mixing bowl, lightly toss the kale in 1/4 cup of apricot dressing. Gently massage until the leaves wilt slightly. If you need more dressing, go for it.

2. After the leaves are evenly coated with dressing to your liking, top with the dried apricots and cheese, toss then serve.

** This amount of salad is good for dinner with friends. If making for one or two people you might want to make a little less. The salad can be kept in the refrigerator, but the kale will continue to wilt and you’ll get a fair amount of liquid in the container making for some juicy salad leftovers. Not bad, but not the best thing ever.

kale blog 2 (2)

A Clementine Vodka Cocktail

March 10, 2014

February wrecks me every year, but this year it destroyed me. My friend and I joked about my existential crisis of 2014, but our joke wasn’t too far from the truth. It’s hard to know that spring will arrive and I’ll feel better soon when I’m  busy questioning my own existence. But crisis or not, I found the perfect cocktail to combat the February gloom.

Clementine-infused vodka from Svedka made its way  straight from the shelf and  into my shopping basket when I saw its bright orange exterior at Target one evening. This vodka, paired with grapefruit juice and a salted rim, makes for a really nice drink to sip on cold evenings. Plus, this drink makes good use of the Himalayan pink salt I got for Christmas. In a moment of panic I nearly poured my jar of it under my car tires one morning when I was stuck in my parking spot with no one to push me out. Luckily, before I could waste this precious kitchen commodity, I called my husband and he convinced me that using my car’s floor mats would be much more effective in gaining traction. It wasn’t. I still had to call our friend and neighbor to bail me out (thanks, Andrew), but at least I didn’t waste my lovely salt on what would have surely failed. It turns out that salt on the rim is much better than salt under the tires.

Salt in the wound 1 blog-1

Salt in the Wound

– 2 parts clementine-infused vodka
– 2 parts fresh squeezed grapefruit juice

Pour over ice in a salt-rimmed glass.

Drink and enjoy with the knowledge that winter doesn’t last forever.

Salt in the wound 2 blog

Oliver + S Family Reunion Dress

January 20, 2014

I had so much fun making the first Oliver + S Family Reunion dress that I just had to make another. This one turned out to be less fun, but that’s because I’m kind of an idiot and didn’t realize that a bent needle was the root of all my sewing machine woes until too late. That said, my tiny buddy Coraline has a new dress. And it’s pretty sweet, especially the fabric. It’s called Fireflies Mineral and is from Teagan White’s new line, Fort Firefly for Birch Organics. Check out all her awesome here. I would happily buy nearly any of these fabrics. They make me enormously happy.

Coraline dress close up

Coraline dress front

Coraline dress back