Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Kitchen is Now Open!

Our summer remodel project is finished, and the kitchen is now open!

You can see the back door in the kitchen from the entry way at the front of the house, and the green color we picked out really pops. 

When walking in to the kitchen you can't help but notice all the natural light. I absolutely love the light, and don't think I'll add any window treatments besides the pull-down shades we installed.

The sunny south-facing window makes me so happy in the winter months. I can sit at the table in the afternoon on a sunny day and take in a little light therapy during February and March (of course this all depends on the weather).

It's been like night and day cooking with all new appliances. The new microwave is so quiet you can't even hear it running. And the table is just the right size for our little family to sit for dinners. It's also a real mood-lifter to be able to have someone sit and hang out with me while I cook dinner. 

Looking in through the back door, you can get a little glimpse of the fridge and pantry now set on the back wall of the kitchen. This was previously a small pantry and part of a deep closet of a bedroom behind the kitchen. 

And if you think this is a bright space with the natural light, just check out all the light fixtures! We've got can lights in the ceiling for overall lighting, a pendulum over the table, under cabinet lighting throughout, and lighting over the stove built-in to the hood. It's amazing!

It's added such a bright, happy place to our home. Fidget sits at the table to do homework, Tom can spread blueprints and paperwork across the table with lots of light, and I can invite a friend to sit and have a hot cup of tea. This space is quickly becoming the heart of our home!

I still have some decorating left to do, but we've been going non-stop since moving back in to the kitchen. The construction finished just a few days before the start of the new school year, and I pushed to get everything in working order for the big day. Honestly I feel like I've been going non-stop ever since school started (which is why I'm just sharing these photos 2 months later).

Meanwhile, we're settling in to what feels like our first real family home. And it's amazing, it's a dream come true.

Some details about our remodel project. We researched a few of the major companies that remodel in the Chicagoland area, and we chose to use Normandy Remodeling. For me the decision to choose Normandy had to do with the fit and finish in their projects, the sensibilities of the design staff, and the amazing choices of materials through their showrooms. For Tom, he liked the fact that architects were on-staff and worked closely with designers to finalize the drawings along with the clients.

We worked with Liz Reifschneider who was fantastic. On her first visit to our house she spent several hours with me just talking about our personal style, likes, dislikes, and hopes for the project. I feel like she really got what I wanted out of the space, not to mention that she came up with the option of a peninsula by the windows as both a place to sit and eat and a way to gain an amazing amount of counter space. What can I say, I feel like Liz's work speaks for itself, just look at how freaking amazing our kitchen is!

Today is a chilly, cloudy day in Chicago. But I know I can still sip a hot cup of tea and sit by the window to watch the weather while I'm cozy warm in our kitchen! :)

Sunday, May 19, 2019

House of the Holy

I've discovered some interesting history about our home. Most notably, our house was originally built next to a church as a parsonage!

This is a photo I'd seen once before in the family files. It was published in a local area newspaper in the early 1970's. When I first saw this photo I noticed all the big differences between the house next to the church and our house. The parsonage in this photo is a simple Gothic revival style with double-gables on the side, tall windows, and some ornate details on the front of the home. The parsonage is also clad in wood.

Our house doesn't have those double gables on the side, the windows are totally different than the parsonage, and there's no wood cladding. I thought maybe our house could have been built in the same spot, or on the old foundation, but definitely wasn't the same house.

But when the kitchen walls were opened up as part of our first floor remodel, I saw an interesting piece of architectural history!

Behind the framing of our current kitchen window is an old bit of framing. This long, tall window frame corresponds with the original tall window at the back of the house in the photo of the church and parsonage.

So that means that yes, our house was originally built alongside the church as a place for the clergy to live. I would never have guessed our house had such a holy beginning!

I contacted a local historian about the photo, and unfortunately there's very little information surviving about the old buildings. The church and parsonage were finished in 1893 for a small German congregation that later merged with another local church. The church building alone was damaged by fire in 1910, and our current neighbor's home was erected over that spot in 1911.

I did a little digging on line to try and find out what happened to our home after the church fire. I was able to ascertain through old census records that individual families lived in the home through the mid 1940's. There's lots of evidence that the single family home was totally remodeled in about 1950 to a two-flat structure with a second story apartment.

Here's what was found under the top layers of the kitchen flooring.

It looks like tile, but it's sheet goods with a felt and burlap backing (not asbestos).

I found a few examples online of similar sheet good flooring with the same backing type online dated from 1945.

The old kitchen on the second floor had tile and fixtures that can also be dated to the late 1940's

Check out the old green kitchen tile on the second floor. When we removed the metal cabinets and sink, we found "December 1949" stamped on the back. 

So we think that about 1950 is the date the house was completely gutted inside and out, the roof bumped out on the second floor to make more space (I poked my head up in the attic space, and I can see some of the sharp angled framing possibly left over from the original double gabled roof of the parsonage), all new windows framed-in on all floors (and now we can see at least three examples of the old Gothic window framing in the walls), a new layer of hardwood went over the old first floor, new hardwood went into the now larger second floor, and the wood cladding was replaced with a stucco finish.

I will do more serious research at a later date, but for now we're just anxious to see the first floor remodel finished later this summer. I'm super excited that we are the second generation to live in this home, and even more excited to start to learn some of the home's history! 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Color Harmony Sampler Quilt

This quilt has been in process for over two years, and I just put the finishing stitches in it last night!

These color harmony sample square blocks were made in February of 2017 for a post all about using a color wheel at

I used a CMY wheel and fabrics matching all 12 fully saturated colors on the wheel, plus white, black, and some gray tones. The goal was to create a patchwork square using HST's that reflected one of the traditional harmonies found on a color wheel. (Find all the details about these harmonies in this post here.)

Below you can see the 12 harmonies, in each row, from left to right:
Row 1: achromatic black/white, monochromatic, and achromatic with grays
Row 2: diad, triad, and analogous
Row 3: complementary, split complementary, and double complementary
Row 4: tetrad, polychromatic, and another polychromatic (because I love all the colors!)

I played around with the samples to find an arrangement I liked, and joined them together with some slightly off-white fabric as a background.

Then I folded it up and stashed it away. For awhile - a long while! When I got the top out again, I sewed side panels on to finish it off.

I hung the top on my design wall to make sure it was all good before moving on to quilting (here's Bea Arthur just hanging out with me, the quilt top behind us). While the top was up there I noticed the side panels were a whiter white than the sashing used to stitch the blocks together. Which looked horrible. So I picked the stitches out of the side panels and set the top aside for another day when I could focus on trying to match fabrics.

Months later I did look for a more suitable match, but couldn't find the exact shade of off-white to match. I settled on a warm white that was close enough, and knew I might be able to address the color difference later on with quilting.

On to basting, always with my trusty studio assistants there to lend a helping...furry paw!

And again this project was set aside for months, as I didn't have a clear idea of how to attack the quilting. However, it made an excellent bed for Sir Isaac, who often left behind some fur and drool (which is why I washed this quilt as soon as I could!).

I started quilting with an idea of creating geometric lines over each patchwork square, but after getting about 1/3 into the project I realized it wasn't working. Back to picking out all the stitches to start from scratch with a new plan for quilting. This meant ripping out ALL the quilting stitches, taking the layers apart, pressing it all to try and remove the holes from stitching, and then re-basting it all back together again.

This time, I added 1/2" lines of stitching to each patchwork square, mirroring some of the shapes but taking some in different directions. Each of the 12 patchwork squares is quilted with a different design.

To help camouflage the slightly different off-whites in the center and on the sides, I stitched the inside off-white with a cream colored thread to make it warmer, and I stitched the outside panels with white thread to tone-down the warmth. It actually worked quite well, and it's very difficult to see a difference after quilting. Phew!

As soon as quilting was finished, I washed the quilt to remove some of the cat hair and drool, and set it straight to dry before blocking and trimming.

My first attempt to finish the edges of the quilt was to add a facing, but the facing ended up creating too much bulk at the edges, and created a shadowed edge that I really, really hated. So, again with the seam ripper, I picked the stitches out of the facing and added a very narrow binding instead.

Which was exactly what this quilt needed.

Because it's been washed, there's lots of nice texture throughout. I love the crinkly, puffy look to a washed quilt.

I think the washing may have also helped to blend the two off-whites even better as well. 

So happy to finally have this project finished, it means I can move on to something else! The challenges with this quilt were realizing that some things I tried along the way weren't working, and I needed to spend the time to make it right (instead of just finishing it in a hurry). In a way, these frustrating road blocks forced me to put this project aside several times - because having to un-do hours and hours of work was driving me crazy. Still, now that it's finally done, it's a good thing!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

My Colossal Blocks Baby Quilt at WeAllSew

I finished this giant tumbling blocks baby quilt a few weeks ago, and the Colossal Blocks Baby Quilt tutorial series has just been posted today at BERNINA's WeAllSew blog! Click right here to find Part 1 of the series.

Did you happen to catch the Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America exhibit last year? It was amazing! If you didn't see the exhibit, there's a beautiful book all about the event you should look for, it includes wonderful photos and information about the designers showcased in the exhibit. I bought a copy and it's become one of my favorite tea-break books to page through.

What inspired me most from the exhibit was the extraordinary color palettes used by the designers in everyday objects. I saw lots of bright pinks alongside yellows, blues, and greens. Not to mention the amazing toys gathered together in the exhibit (like The Toy or Eames personal collection of tops) that incorporated bright colors and bold, geometric shapes.

Those bright colors and bold shapes were totally the inspiration for this baby quilt.

I think this little quilt expresses that Midcentury playfulness, what do you think?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Sewing Table Update

I've been sewing in my updated studio for a little more than a year now! I'm still loving it, but am ready to make some fine-tuning adjustments. This weekend I tackled my sewing table, which used to be my desk when we lived downstairs. You can see it just to the left of the room there in the photo below.

Originally I planned on replacing this table in the sewing studio with something different, but it's been mostly meeting my needs.

Except when I'm quilting for long periods of time. After quilting for about an hour or so I'm experiencing really bad shoulder and upper back pain. The table is just too high for me to comfortably work with my hands and arms when quilting.

There's a few options for getting the sewing machine down lower to easy my pain, like setting the machine down in the table, or lowering the entire table.

Cutting a hole in the top of the table to set the machine in isn't really an option for me because I love to switch up the type of machine I'm sewing with often - from using vintage machines to current model BERNINA machines. I opted instead to lower the entire table, making any machine I use with it in a better position for sewing and quilting.

Here it is before modifications (by the way, it's is an Ikea dining table). You can see the table is taller than my drawers next to it, and it's taller than my red topped table I use for extra space (Isaac is sitting on it in the back there! He "helped" with this entire project).

My goal is to cut the legs shorter but also give myself some extra leg room under the front apron board of the table. So, I removed the 4 legs and the front apron board.

My super handy husband cut the legs exactly 2 3/4" shorter, and trimmed down the front apron board to allow for more leg room.

Then I just needed to put it all back together and add a few felt pads to protect the floor.

And it works fantastic! The table now sits flush with my drawers and my red topped table.

I spent some extra time over the weekend quilting with absolutely no shoulder, back, or neck pain!

Success! I'd love to know what type of table or cabinet do you sew on, and what are your tips for preventing back and shoulder pain when quilting?