Hopeful Homemaker

nurturing hope in family life

March 25, 2015
by jennifer

Prairie Sweets Quilt Blocks

Back in 2007, when my 6th baby was not yet crawling and I’d made my very first quilt, I somehow saw a picture of the Prairie Sweets quilt pattern by Fig Tree Quilts.  Not yet knowing enough about quilting to have any clue how little I knew, words like applique and circles meant little to me.  I just knew I liked the pattern, so I bought it.

And it sat for 7 years.  Lots of things happened in those seven years.  I kept quilting but I never made that quilt, as the words applique and circles came to mean “more work than I have time for” while other patterns grabbed my attention instead.  Last year I took an honest look at the pattern, wondering if it was time to get rid of it.  I was a little surprised to discover I still wanted to make one.


I decided to try having an “on the go” project this year, as I knew I’d spend lots of time in the car and wouldn’t be able to do as much sewing as I would like.  I made all the pinwheel blocks and tried glue basting for the first time to secure the rings.  So far it’s been an effective way to hold them in place as I’ve been carrying this project around in my car for nine months!  I chose Anna Maria Horner’s Pretty Potent fabrics for the project and the more I sew the more I love it.


I’ve got 22 blocks finished, which is about half of them.  It was fun to lay them out and see how pretty they all look together!  I used a variety of swiss dot fabrics for the backgrounds, and I really love that element as well.


It’s been great to have something to keep me busy when I’m sitting in carpool lines at schools or waiting for practices and lessons to end.  It will be fun to finish the remaining blocks and decide what my next hand sewing project will be!


Linking here

March 24, 2015
by jennifer

Spools Mini Quilt


I participated in the Secret Sister Swap at Quilt Bliss, and was happy to have Lori assigned to me.  When I read her list of preferences, the first thing I noticed was that she loves blue fabric.  A girl after my own heart!  After some back and forth and stressing about what to make, I settled on the Spools Mini quilt from the Liberty Love book.


I pulled some favorite blue fabrics and settled on a scrappy low volume background.


The block was fun to make and came together quickly and precisely.  I think this one was my favorite:


The final product:


I would quilt it differently if I made it again.  I chose straight line quilting in a diagonal grid, but wish I’d done some free motion quilting on each spool.  I was nervous, however, because I’m out of practice and even when I’ve been practicing my fmq leaves much to be desired.  So I went with something I knew I could do, but I’m not sure it was the best choice for this mini.  Still, I do like it and I was out of time so it had to work!

A couple of things I re-learned in making this mini:
1.  When I sew for myself, it’s generally relaxing.  When I make a gift, I generally enjoy it.  When it’s a swap, I’m a total stress case.
2.  I really, really love low-volume fabrics, backgrounds, everything.  The trend hasn’t bothered me a bit and I’m not at all tired of it.  I love the visual interest it gives a quilt.  Low-volume makes me happy.

And there you have the story of this mini quilt.

I hope Lori enjoys it!

March 23, 2015
by jennifer

Quilty Magazine COVER!!!


I shared this on Instagram early in March, but haven’t yet shared it here.  I had the opportunity last year to design a quilt and send it off to Quilty Magazine.  Imagine my total shock when I opened a nondescript manila envelope with my name on it and saw my quilt on the cover.  On the cover!

When I first saw it, I was speechless as I processed what I was looking at.  And then I held it up in the air and started jumping up and down and sort of screamed to my family what it was.  We were in the middle of finishing the dishes after our Sunday dinner and they all turned and stared at me, trying to figure out what on earth I was screaming for.  Then I started laughing and crying and my husband started filming and they all started laughing at me.  Trust me, not one of them had ever seen me behave like that before.  In fact, I don’t think I ever remember behaving like that before.  It was terribly funny.

But the fact is, even after looking at it for three weeks, I kind of can’t believe it.  My quilt.  Published.  It’s all so strange and yet such a happy gift.  They did a beautiful job of photographing it and the quilt arrived home this week.  I’m excited to take some pictures of my own and share more.


If you’d like to see more, or make one, it’s the March/April 2015 issue of Quilty Magazine, available on newsstands now.  It’s a big block that’s dramatic and fun to make.  There are some really great patterns in the issue and I’m honored to be a part of it.  Shocked and honored and giddy and all sorts of emotions.  Crazy!


March 22, 2015
by jennifer

Hyacinths to feed thy soul


If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft
And from thy slender store
Two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole,
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

– Saadi, Persian poet


I’m curled up in the corner of my living room couch so my nose is about 2 feet away from these flowers as I type, reluctant to miss out on their heady scent while it’s mine to enjoy.  I still remember the first time I smelled a hyacinth.  It was a bright, vivid pink and I was attracted by the sturdy stalk covered with cheerful flowers.  I leaned in for closer inspection and as the distinct fragrance flooded my senses for the first time, Saadi’s poem swiftly came to mind.  Years later, I find myself responding the same way each time I spot them blooming in the yard.  I close my eyes, breathe deeply and think, “Yes.  To feed thy soul.”


It is true that my soul needs nourishment as surely as my body does.  I am grateful for simple joys and beauties that accomplish it.  Sometimes the feast comes in fresh flowers.  Lately it’s also come in sunsets, new appreciation for the nearby mountain range, the curve of my daughter’s cheek, the chirping of birds, prayer, children’s picture books, color. I realize it’s all built into life beautifully by my Heavenly Father who perfectly understands the need – a feast there for the taking if I have eyes to see.  Which reminds me of another favorite verse…

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common brush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.

– Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wishing you a day that feeds your soul in simple, wholesome ways, and eyes to see all that God is doing in your life.



March 5, 2015
by jennifer

In the Distance

Do you ever feel like the person you’re supposed to be is close by, within reach yet just beyond your fingertips, somewhere in the distance just ahead of you?  I’m not talking about the perfect-in-every-detail woman I often wish I was, and often judge myself by.  I’m talking about those deep, fundamental things that make us who we really are.  The Jennifer Harrison I’m meant to become, or perhaps, the Jennifer Harrison I’ve always been but who still needs uncovering?


The past couple of months have held beautiful experiences for me.  Beautiful on their own, but more significant because they play off one another to instruct me in deeply personal ways.  This week marks the first week in a while that I’m not scrambling to wrap up from one event/trip while catching up at home and simultaneously preparing to leave again for a few days.

I find myself thinking about the year so far, my heart full and grateful for so many things – especially people.  And while I revel in sinking back into daily life at home with my family, I also find myself sifting and sorting and trying to identify how I’m different for having lived the past 8 weeks.  It would be a shame to end up just the same when so many little moments were engineered to make me new, better than before.  Closer to that girl in the distance.  I’m not sure I’ll ever catch her; progression is part of the great plan of life; but she feels closer to me lately, more authentic.  I don’t want to lose that feeling in all the laundry and homework and carpools I’m jumping back into.

What do you do to stay changed?  How do you keep life’s beautiful experiences close by so you don’t forget them and lose ground?  How do you preserve them before the everyday runs right over them, distorting their shape and shine?   I am working to write them down.  I also added a photo to my study spot, and this morning wrote a to-do list of all the terribly important (but now not urgent) things I must do while it’s still fresh, or at least somewhat so.  And I’m praying about the process.

I snapped the photo of Mt. Rainier with my phone while on a quick walk around Gig Harbor, WA in January.  Having served in Washington as a missionary 20 years ago, I know full well what a gift it was to have a beautiful, clear, sunny day in January with a clear view of that mountain.  Although the image is poor in quality, when I see it, the jump-for-joy clenching feeling in my heart returns and I re-live that moment of receiving a gift that was intensely personal even if I shared it with everyone else on a stroll around the harbor that day.

I guess the girl I mean to be is a lot like my favorite mountain.  Sometimes clear and bright and looming, sometimes smaller and floating above the clouds, sometimes faint, and sometimes shrouded in clouds.  Yet there, always there.  Occasionally it’s so big, so beautiful, so close it seems I can reach out and touch it.

More soon.


December 31, 2014
by jennifer

Life Story Medallion Quilt


Perhaps you remember this quilt.  I started it back in February of 2013 and added to it over the next six months or so. I finished the quilt top in August and shared photos of it here.  For a while I didn’t share it simply because I hadn’t taken proper photos of it.  This fall I finally enlisted the help of my husband and son and we took some awesome photos but they were all lost on my old hard drive.  I’ve struggled with how much I wanted to write about this quilt, but today, as I review the year and prepare for 2015, I suddenly needed to tell it now.  I got it out, spread it over the guest bed for some indoor photos and here we go!

This quilt was a totally new quilting experience for me.  As it developed, border by border, it changed and became different – but better – than I’d pictured.  It challenged me, fed me, and was generally a beautiful experience.

But something happened half-way through it, something that made me love it even more but struggle to talk about it.  It happened on border #5.

Border 5 is the mosaic styled one, with all the strips sewn into squares sewn into nine-patch units.  It’s beautiful, but it’s also chaos.  I had just attached that border and was holding it up to show to my children.  My oldest daughter immediately noticed a mistake on a previous border and I was amazed that I hadn’t caught it sooner.  I concluded that if I hadn’t caught it, or anyone I’d shown it to before that point (including all my friends at UCMQG) then I could probably just leave it and no one would ever really notice.  Since that day no one has pointed it out.

But it got me thinking, and looking at what I’d made so far.


Suddenly I realized that I’d quilted my life!  I couldn’t have created something that more closely mirrored my life story and m.  It was quite a moment for me, to look at the center of that quilt and every subsequent border and see my life represented so perfectly by them.  From the near-perfectly pieced 8 pointed star in the center to the paper pieced arrows, so much of my life was based on the idea that if I was careful and good and did my best, things would always work out.  I don’t mean the working out that comes from living through things, but the innocent idea that things would work out the way I wanted them to.  Pretty.  Neat.  Orderly.  Perfect family, adorable children, etc.  I thought that if I sent my arrows in the right direction they would all fly straight and true and hit my mark.  I really did.  I get that it’s funny, but it was 100% me.  And then I entered motherhood.  It worked for a while, right up until I had six kids.  That was when I started noticing things not completely coming together all the time.  I forgot things, messed them up. missed them entirely.  Not that I hadn’t made mistakes along the way.  But perfectionism worked pretty well for me until I had six kids.  Then came my unraveling, little by little.  Babies 7 and 8 finished the job and I’ve been trying to find my way ever since.

What a revelation, to see it all playing out there in my quilt.

By that time, I’d already made border #6 and I sewed it on, still pondering the whole thing.


Those two borders, numbers five and six (six is the flying geese border pointing to the outer edges of the quilt), are where I live.  It’s my current stage.  Beautiful and busy and full of good things, but totally crazy.  I’m forever trying to push my way out of it to some sort of calm – any sort of calm.  I guess I’d really like the calm where I feel like I get to resume the “once upon a time” narration of my life, the idea that I have a story to tell and I’m in charge of how it turns out.  Wouldn’t we all like that?  Believe me, with 8 children in our family and all the surprises that daily land in my lap, sometimes I’m crazy for the feeling that I can see even ONE THING through to completion without it being changed beyond recognition.  Some days I think I’m getting there, like our family is getting to a calmer, more manageable stage, and then life rises up like a tidal wave and sends me crashing back into the middle of border 5.

Making this quilt taught me that where I live, crazy as it is, is beautiful, and necessary, and OK.


Every border I added after that point, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing to me, also became a statement of faith.  A promise to myself that I will finish the job, stay the course, and that things will work out for the best.  Not the way I pictured, but far better than I pictured.  Each border represents something specific that I won’t go into here, but they represent a great deal to me.  Those borders are my statement that “the best is yet to come,” that motherhood is awesome, and that I’m excited to see it all unfold.


The quilt measures nearly 85 inches square, a huge project to quilt myself, but I felt compelled to do it.  I tried a different style of free motion quilting on every border, some with more success than others, but I did it.  Somewhere in the middle the whole project had become a spiritual experience for me and I wanted to say that I’d stitched every stitch myself.  If this quilt is like my life story, I couldn’t ask someone else to bring it to life through the quilting.


And actually, with all the mistakes, I’m crazy proud of it.  It’s heavily quilted.  I wanted to quit so many times but kept going.  I learned a lot and got better at what I was doing.  It was an awesome experience and I LOVE how it looks.


In fact, I think this is the first quilt I’ve made that I would call an heirloom.  It’s the first quilt I’ve set out so I can look at it every day.  I usually roll up my quilts and add them to the bucket in the family room for snuggling.  I’m ok with them getting spilled on and being loved.  They become part of the fabric of our family life which is, as I stated, messy.  Not this one.  It hangs on a ladder in my room and I see it every day and smile.  It reminds me that I’m in.  No matter how hard it feels, I’m in, and we’re going to make it.  I love this quilt.  There will never be another just like it and it’s totally, completely, ME.


I pieced one more arrow block and embroidered it for use as a quilt label.  It says:

Life Story Medallion Quilt – Jennifer S. Harrison
begun January 2013, finished February 2014   www.hopefulhomemaker.com
inspired by modern medallion challenge of Utah County Modern Quilt Group

I usually finish my bindings by machine to avoid aggravating an old elbow injury, but this one I finished by hand.  And of course, it had to be a black and white binding!



It’s done.  Someday I hope to take better pictures of it, but for tonight my heart is happy to have these photos and to share it here.  It’s a great way to sum up the year and say good-bye to 2014.

Life is great, isn’t it?!

Previous posts about this quilt:
Lone Star Block Tutorial
Border 4
Medallion Border 5
Modern Medallion Progress
Medallion: Pluses and Arrows
Medallion:  Arrows and Orange
Medallion Quilt Top

December 31, 2014
by jennifer
1 Comment

Nine-Patch Mini Quilt


In November my friend Pamela hosted a mini quilt exchange.  I was so excited to be invited to participate, but nervous as could be about it.  I’d never done an exchange before and was afraid my offering wouldn’t be good enough.  I had an idea I’d thought about for weeks but had to skip because of time constraints.  Finally I got out some of the leftover scraps from Scarlet’s quilt and started playing with them.  I settled on this layout and got started.


The inspiration for this mini quilt was three-fold.  I’ve never made the granny square quilt I pinned forever ago.  I also bought Camille Roskelley’s Niner pattern, but have never even opened it up.  Finally, I’d been looking at some photos of stained glass windows, admiring the beauty of the light and color between the leaded glass.


I sewed a dozen little nine patches and then started sashing them with a thin strip of black with gray polka dots.  I used the last of my dark gray solid (I love this color and can’t believe I never wrote down the manufacturer, color, or even where I got it!) for the center block and setting triangles.  Soon it was all put together and actually looked good!  Relief!


Next came stress about quilting it.  I wanted to do something to make the center block awesome but didn’t want to highlight my poor fmq skills.  At last I chose straight line quilting and went to work with the hera marker.  Above is what it looked like with all my quilting lines marked.  It looked awesome so I knew I was on the right track but I did wish for a minute that the lines would magically become quilting.  I was so afraid to mess it up!


Here it is, quilted in a medium gray thread.  Not too bad!  Actually, I was ridiculously happy/relieved that it worked.


Even the back looks cool!


I learned some good things through this experience.  While I am likely my own worst critic, I am also accepting of my own work.  I know the story behind the decisions, the time constraints, the intention and the vision.  So I roll with the imperfections pretty well because at the end of a project I’m reminded what a gift it was to squeeze it in at all.  It terrifies me to sew for money because I feel like getting paid would require total perfection.  Sewing for a swap felt a little like this.  I didn’t want the person who opened mine to be disappointed!  I was crazy nervous at the party and realized I may have a few lessons to learn about confidence when surrounded by quilters I admire.


When my package was finally opened, no one looked my way.  It took a few minutes for them to figure out who made it.  I knew the design was outside what might be called “my style” and yet I really love it.  It was harder to give away than I thought it would be, a reminder that when we create things, we put pieces of our hearts in them and letting them go can be bittersweet.


It would be fun to make a second one to hang in my laundry room with the three other mini quilts there.  We’ll see if I ever take the time to do it.  I’m so glad I got to participate in the swap despite my (out of character) nervousness.  It was a good experience in creativity and self-expression!


December 31, 2014
by jennifer

Life’s Journey Quilt


This quilt has been years in the finishing!  Begun early in 2010, this post is being written almost 5 years later.  Crazy.  When I originally pieced it, I wanted to have it professionally quilted.  It turns out, the longer you wait to quilt sometimes, the easier it is later to do it yourself.  Such was the case with this quilt.  While I still like it, it’s no longer my current favorite so I became less attached to a professional job.

Even so, learning free motion quilting is much easier said than done!  This quilt was worked on, quit, put away, and brought back out perhaps more than any other project of my life.  I’d quilt a little and get so annoyed with myself that I’d set aside, vowing to unpick it all.  But when I got it out again, I wasn’t in the mood to unpick so I would quilt a little more until the same thing happened.  I even remember at one point discovering, after a very rough section, that I’d never lowered my feed dogs!

After a while I decided that the name of the quilt pattern, “Life’s Journey” was appropriate for my quilting journey and that I’d leave it as it is, keeping the quilt as a reminder that we all start as beginners at something and slowly get better with practice.


The section above is pretty rough, but I also got better in some sections!


The aqua background quilting was intended to look like water flowing, but in fact looked more like flames.  Yet when it was finished and washed, it simply looks fine.


That alphabet print in the upper left corner of the above photo makes me smile.  I believe I bought it in early 2006 (maybe even before that?), on clearance.  I still remember how much I loved it.  I bought everything they had left of it and the lady at the quilt shop thought I was nuts and basically told me so.  She thought I must be some crazy school teacher or something to like a fabric that had TEXT on it.  Ha!  I’ve used that fabric in so many quilts over the years and it always makes me smile.  Guess I was a little ahead of trend on that purchase.  ;)


The borders were the last part I quilted (done in December 2013) and I really enjoyed them.  It’s the only time I’ve ever used the fabric print to dictate quilting but I love how it looks on this beautiful tile print from Laura Gunn.  This is a fabric I’d love to buy yards and yards of if only someone still had it.  Isn’t it funny sometimes the things we love?  It surprises me how much I love this print, but I love it all the same.


For this quilt I pieced a mostly low-volume backing.  More of that tile print and the alphabet print too!  I also used a few favorite pieces of French General’s first collection, Rouenneries.  I had loved French General before they announced their first fabric collection with Moda, so these fabrics were much anticipated.


On New Year’s Eve in 2013 I finished binding this quilt.  I have no good reason why it took me another year to bury threads, wash, photograph and post about it!


Now that it’s done, I’m happy not just with the outcome of the quilt, but also with the process.  I’m reminded that it’s the work of experts that draws us to a craft, but we all have to do the work of beginners when we start.  So much of this quilt shows the hard work of learning something new, but when you stand back and look at it as a whole, it looks just fine.  Which is often how life is.  We can get hung up on little details and small areas and forget that in the end it will look like life, no matter how imperfect some spots may be.  I’m grateful for that reminder, happy to have learned the lesson – again – in a small way.


Other posts about this quilt:
Life’s Journey quilt

December 31, 2014
by jennifer
1 Comment

Chic Kisses Mini Quilt


In November I had the opportunity to test the Chic Kisses pattern for Sew Kind of Wonderful.  This pattern uses the Quick Curve Ruler, which I had been curious about but hadn’t used.  I’ve sewn a few curves with success and wanted to give it a try.  I ordered the ruler and ended up choosing fabrics in a traditional Christmas color scheme.


Having never used the Quick Curve Ruler before, I worried that I’d mess things up because this is a more complicated pattern.  To my relief I found it easy to follow and my first four blocks came together quickly and painlessly.  I stopped at four blocks to make one ring and decided on a mini quilt.


The quilting Jenny does on her quilts amazes me.  I could stare at it for hours.  I had her work in mind as I quilted this little thing.  It was good practice for me – full of mistakes – and I tried something new.

This quilt pattern is really amazing.  I’ve got a bundle of fabrics I’m going to use to make a big Chic Kisses quilt.  I just need to decide on solids.  If you’re considering the QCR or any of the Sew Kind of Wonderful patterns, I recommend them!  It’s a lot of fun!


My chic kisses mini hung in the living room during the holiday season and I enjoyed seeing it there.   It was great to have the chance to test the pattern and learn a new technique.  Today it’s all packed away and the year ends tonight.  It’s been a good year and we’ve been very blessed, but I’m excited for a new year and all it will hold.

December 29, 2014
by jennifer

Nate’s Quilt


This is the last of the quilts I made for my kids last year.   I had a special wish in my heart with this quilt.  It belongs to my now 17-year-old son and I knew it might be the last quilt I make for him before he leaves home.  I wanted it to be big enough for his six foot frame but I also had very little time to put it together.


The other challenge I had was choosing a color scheme and fabrics for a kid who generally avoids a lot of color or pattern.  I realized there was one area in his life, however, where color doesn’t bother him, and it’s in his snowboarding gear.  I took a cue from the colors he’s got in his gear and decided to make another scrappy trip quilt.  This one looks completely different from the one I made earlier in 2013!  I used three different colors of metro rings fabric – lime green, orange, and turquoise, and a ton of black and gray fat quarters for all the other strips.


It’s backed with a plain black minky fabric and quilted on a 9-patch grid.  I remember basting this quilt on the kitchen floor on December 23rd as the children lay around the Christmas tree for our annual tradition of sleeping beneath the tree.  I was totally out of time and we had company staying with us but it worked out! {Translation: I got very little sleep.}


The binding is a large black and white text print and I love how graphic it looks.  It totally suits his style (and his art).  The blocks are set in a chevron style which isn’t overpowering because half of the blocks have no color.  It was a lot of fun to sew, and I think I met my goal.  He likes it, it’s big and cozy, and it got finished in time for Christmas 2013.  A year later, it’s still on his bed and seeing plenty of use.


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