How I Spent a Day in Santa Barbara

Every few weeks, I get lucky enough to have either a Friday/Saturday or a Saturday/Sunday scheduled off work. With that “rotation” I had Saturday March 3rd free, and so did my dear friend Emily. As such, we made plans so I could visit where she is currently living in the Santa Barbara area.

Due to work, I got to Santa Barbara late Friday. Fortunately, my leaving Friday after work gave us all day Saturday to do fun things. After some brainstorming, we decided that we wanted to make sure the day involved brunch, local restaurants, historical buildings, and getting close to the beach (getting in the water wasn’t a requirement for me on this coastal trip).

For us, the day started off with meeting Emily’s fiancé at her favorite breakfast place, The Cajun Kitchen. Although we each committed to our own entree, we also split a bowl of beignets. From brunch, we regrouped and then decided that our next stop for the day would be the Santa Barbara Mission.

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After wandering around the outside of the mission, we decided to do the self-guided tour that goes through the garden, cemetery, church, and museum.

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Alternate view of the Sacred Garden

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Bay-Fig in the center of the cemetery

This part of the day made me particularly happy because I love the California Missions. As I have previously talked about with reference to National Parks, I took California for granted before I moved to Colorado, and I decided years ago that I wanted to make it a personal goal to see all of the missions. Before this trip, I had toured the missions at San Juan Bautista and Carmel, and had been on the grounds for (but not inside) the mission at San Luis Obispo. At a later date I am sure I will do a more in depth explanation, but in part, I’m drawn to the missions because of their architectural beauty, the fact that parts are still in use, and that people can still be buried there (regardless of religion).

After we finished the tour, we decided to head into Downtown Santa Barbara. There, we went to the County Courthouse to climb four stories worth of stairs to get to the top of the tower. The first two floors of this building consist primarily of public and private offices as well as courtrooms (two of the Supreme Court rooms were actually in use that day). The third floor on the west side of the building had only a small room with the internal components for the clock on the exterior of the building. The fourth floor above the clock was solely an observation deck, and each side offered a panoramic view of the city and it’s surrounding natural features.

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From the second floor of the Courthouse
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Panoramic view facing the ocean
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Panoramic view across the courtyard towards the mountains

Once we were done at the top, we took the elevator back down to the main floor and sat in the courtyard for a little while (we also probably definitely accidentally photobombed a wedding).

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Observation tower from the courtyard

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From there, we decided to drive down the pier and then park by the harbor and walk around some more. We walked past an array of personal boats and a gathering of the Santa Barbara Ukulele Club before reaching the building for the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. We didn’t go in the museum here, but went to the top floor observation deck.

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For dinner, we went to Sandbar in Downtown. After eating more fish tacos than I had intended, I started my drive back to the valley. Although I took no pictures this time, I stopped at the Madonna Inn (which I LOVE) on both the drive down and the drive back.

 

While I live in the valley, these little trips help keep me sane and active, and I am grateful that I’m living in a place that affords me the freedom and fulfillment that my soul finds from travel. I don’t mind traveling by myself, but adventures are that much better when shared. I’m so thankful to Emily and Bobby for spending the day eating delicious food and looking at old buildings with me. I look forward to the next adventure I have with you two!

My Take on How to Keep Families (or Groups) of All Ages Happy at Disneyland

One of my coworkers recently planned a family trip to Disneyland that would be the first where both of her kids are able to participate in and remember the experience. As an avid Disney-goer who has gone with groups as small as 2 people and as large as 8, I offered her advice to make the most of their time once they had made the base decisions, which include where they’re staying, how long they have in the park, budget, etc.

This was a welcomed challenge for me because she has younger kids and I do not have kids, nor does my family have young members (of those we frequently see & travel with, the youngest human member is 19). Despite this, I do know the parks and how to coordinate group trips. No matter the age range, the first step in planning any Disney trip is figuring out how many days you will have in the park and if you will be getting park hopper or single park tickets. The group I was advising had 3 day park hopper tickets (which is plenty of park time to accomplish a lot with a group of any size and age) and were staying in one of the most conveniently located off-site hotels.

With this information, I compiled a list of things that I believe are essential to a successful Disneyland trip. In this version of the information, some of the points are linked to where they can be found on the Disney website. The key to having a successful group trip is figuring out what is important to your individual group members and “planning” time in the park accordingly. To accomplish this, there are a few rules of thumb I like to follow:

  1. Try to limit yourselves to one big show per day (unless they’re in the same park) for a couple of reasons; the first is that a lot of the night shows overlap, so it’s only physically possible to see one, the other is that you don’t want to overload on shows. The shows in the same park could be done on the same night if you wanted to because the only available ones are staggered in the same location. Example I gave for their trip for February of 2017: It would make sense if you wanted to do the Electric Light Parade and the Firework show the same night if you wanted because the Electric Light Parade is at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Main Street and fireworks run at 9:25 p.m. Friday night and Saturday night in front of the Castle. World of Color shows in California Adventure at similar times to the shows in Disneyland so it is not possible to see all of both shows.
  2. Make sure everyone is fed and hydrated. I know the coordinator of any group is going to be a “mom” type figure and that goes without saying, but it is honestly amazing how moods can change if one of those things doesn’t happen, even with adults.
  3. Don’t forget to alternate between people’s interests, but also make sure you’re not jumping back and forth across each park or between parks each turn to accomplish this. One way to get through this making sure that everyone is happy is to take turns picking rides. This can be a whole day or part day “rotation” and it is completely up to preference if the choices are just the kids, all members of the group deciding together, or between the kid’s individual choices and a “family” activity (or any other variation thereof).
  4. Although this is a trip intended for the group to be together, there will likely be times where splitting the group and meeting back up is the best choice. For my family, this means that while my dad and brother ride Star Tours, my mom and I will go shop, get snacks, meet princesses, meet with friends, or go on another ride the boys are less interested in like Alice in Wonderland. When we’re done, we would head to a pre-determined location to regroup and decide where to go from there. Also, there were times the line for Star Tours would be short when the boys were done and we had no plans at a set time after, so they would get back in line and text us that it would be another 20-30 minutes or so. For my coworker’s family, I gave the example of taking her daughter to meet Elsa and Anna at Disney Animation in Hollywood Land while her husband and son do California Screamin’ (a ride her daughter might still be too short to ride and I know she has no interest in doing). This way, everyone gets to accomplish something they want to without forcing other group members to do something they don’t want to, and it gives everyone a little break.

Although these seem inclusive of a lot of park decisions, these are not the only things to consider while planning.

During your trip, DO:

  • As a group coordinator, make sure everyone (including yourself) gets to do something they really want to before you stop to have lunch, and everyone gets to do something they really want to do before leaving the parks for the night. This doesn’t have to be a ride, it can be meeting a character, seeing a show, or eating a pretzel (or churro, or Dole whip).
  • Make sure everyone stays hydrated and fed (I know I said it before but it’s important). Bring snacks in a backpack that are easy to eat in line, and bring your own water bottles (you can refill them at drinking fountains throughout the parks) and cups of ice water are free at quick service restaurants.
  • Ask people to take pictures for you. The Disney PhotoPass employees are always happy to take pictures using your camera or phone in iconic locations throughout the parks (it’s literally what they get paid to do.. they will also take some with their cameras that you have no obligation to purchase later). In more obscure park locations, offer to take pictures for other families, and if they don’t offer to do the same, ask them.
  • Give each person an opportunity to get a souvenir that is meaningful to them to commemorate the trip. There are a lot of shops throughout both parks and downtown that offer products of all types and price ranges. One that has always been a fun one for me is using the penny presses, which are very inexpensive. img_0478
  • Spend some time in each park at night just taking in the sights; I think there is something truly magical about Main Street and Cars Land lit up at night.
  • The first two days of the trip should start in different parks. It is a personal preference where to start and can be influenced by the time each park opens and whether or not your tickets have a Magic Morning, but those first two days should not be the same starting park. Any days after that you can start wherever you want to, but each park deserves to be experienced right at open at least one day of the trip. With park openings, we have found that in California Adventure, literally at park opening is the best time to go on Radiator Springs Racers (if you don’t want to get a FastPass) or Toy Story Midway Mania, and in Disneyland this is typically the best time to do Indiana Jones, Space Mountain, and Star Tours if you’re not wanting to get a FastPass, and Peter Pan because it doesn’t have a FastPass option).

During your trip, I RECOMMEND:

  • Taking a break in the early afternoon to go back to your hotel room for a nap/breather (even just an hour will do), especially on day 2 or 3. This has a few perks; it keeps you out of the park during the heat of the day (not as big of an issue in winter) and will help everyone refresh mentally and physically so you can happily make it to park close on the nights the park is open later.
  • Limiting the amount of soda you drink (it loops back to the hydration idea).
  • If it might rain during your trip, go to the Dollar Store before you leave for your trip and get ponchos there. These easily fit in backpacks and are a much better strategy than waiting to buy them in Anaheim or in the parks.
  • Taking band-aids for blisters. Another good trick is putting athletic tape over band-aids to help them stay on in the park. This also significantly cuts down on further rubbing and pain experienced.
  • Bring entertainment activities that aren’t necessarily electronic. Some rides will have longer wait times that are unavoidable. You know your kids/family members and what will keep them occupied best to help ease the wait time. You may not need these type of things at all, but it’s definitely something to consider when packing.
  • Talking to and interacting with employees. Everyone – characters, attraction workers, guest relations, staff cleaning, and more. Main Street just beyond the tunnels is home to guest relations, a fire department that you can explore, and museum type attractions. Ask employees about everything you see; you don’t have to be on a tour to get “tour” type answers. My example here is the gallery right next to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln which has very expensive artwork in it; there is a massive safe to the left of the register that had an actual function when the park opened, a fact I learned while talking to the cashiers.
  • We like using day 3 of a 3 day trip to do “finishing touches” type things. To do this, we treat the first part of the day as the time to make sure we visit the rides and attractions we haven’t gotten to yet and really want to experience while there, and the rest of the day is used for repeating any rides we want to hit for a second (or third, or fourth) time. This is also the time to make final decisions about souvenirs.  
  • Go to traditional photo places, but look for alternate angles. For example, castle pictures are just as good taken from one of the sides as they are from directly in front of the castle.
  • Go up seemingly obscure paths. There is no part of the park that goes without thought, and there are fun surprises and things to see everywhere.

During your trip, DO NOT:

  • Eat every meal in the park or on park property (hotels, Downtown Disney). Sure, the locations are convenient, but this is a major unnecessary expense. When you are eating in the park, consider splitting entrees between group members or having the meals slightly later than usual because of portion sizes.
  • Feel like you have to buy a ton of Disney Merchandise. It all adds up really quickly, and character preferences will shift as kids grow up. The Dollar Store also has little Disney things that you can get and take with you to give to the kids during the trip (we even do this for travel Kleenex, Q-tips, band-aids, etc. that we want on theme).

Along with this, I offered some other helpful tips:

  • Bring your own water bottles and food into the park. The only rule is that you can’t bring glass (with the exception being pre-packaged baby food jars and smaller things along those lines) or alcohol into the park.
  • As you enter the park, grab maps & show schedules when you get your ticket scanned.
  • Download the Disneyland app for current wait times in both parks. The app also has times for shows, street performances, and events, as well as park hours, character locations, restaurant hours and menus, and bathroom locations.
  • If you don’t want to use the app (or just don’t want to pull your phone out), there is a kiosk with up-to-date wait times outside the Jolly Holiday Café in Disneyland and one on the far side of Carthay Circle in Disney’s California Adventure.
  • The monorail runs between Downtown Disney and Tomorrowland and is particularly useful if you want to spend some time exploring Downtown closer to the Disneyland Hotel and want to go right back into the deeper parts of Disneyland.
  • There are lockers of different sizes available for rent in both parks; these are a good idea for storing bulky sweaters you might need later, coolers (you are allowed to bring small coolers into the park, I recommend using this for cold sandwiches or keeping additional bottles of water cold that you don’t want to carry around all day), stuff you don’t want to carry around, etc.
  • Make sure any and all backpacks/bags/coolers are easily accessible for the security staff checking bags as you enter park property (also keep in mind you now have to go through metal detectors when entering park property, so plan what you wear and how you pack accordingly).
  • Turn your phones on airplane mode if you’re in indoor lines (like Indiana Jones and Soarin’). The buildings aren’t made to receive cell phone reception and your phone will drain it’s battery looking for reception.

A dear friend of mine whose family also frequents Disneyland added that it’s wise to set a daily budget, it will help you watch your spending for the whole trip.

I do my best to make every Disney trip I take a little bit different. Sure, there are staples that must happen on every trip like taking pictures just inside park gates by the flowers and in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, riding Big Thunder Mountain and the new-ish Little Mermaid ride, and eating my weight in churros. Despite that, each trip ends up having it’s own theme which in the past have included my brother’s childhood best friend’s birthday, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, a girls trip with my mom, best friend, and her mom, variations of “Brittany & Hannah Adventures” (the next installation of which is coming April of this year), and my mom’s birthday; almost all of these trips end up having special guests (namely Paul, Emily, and Dani).

I know this seems like a lot of information, but once you’re in the parks it feels much more intuitive. No matter what details your trip includes, what is most important is that everyone enjoys their time.

 

27th Annual Civil War Revisited Event in Fresno, CA

For the last 27 years, Kearney Mansion in Fresno, CA has played host to annual “living history” Civil War events which are hosted by the Fresno Historical Society. I have attended this event a few times for school, and it has always been a memorable experience. What I like so much about this event is teaching via immersion; yes, you could just as easily read a book or 10 about the Civil War, but as someone who is a kinesthetic learner, this kind of event is very stimulating. (This is by no means a knock on reading, I love reading!)

This past Saturday, my family decided we were going to make a day of it. My brother, dad, and I had not been since our last school trips, and until today my mom had never been (she has also never been inside the mansion).

On the grounds around the mansion there are a number of tents set up. There are two larger collections of tents set up in “camps” deeper in the property, one of which is for the Union and one for the Confederacy. The remaining tents are for shops and vendors selling food, as well as various informational and artisanal booths.

At 10:30 a.m., we watched the military parade (this morning it was the Confederate Army) and the raising of the flag.

From there, we went to the weapons booth, the blacksmith area, and then by the confederate end of the field to look at the cannons. We even saw one man sitting at a table by himself breaking out whiskey. My dad turned to the rest of us and said, “It’s a little early for whiskey, don’t you think?” to which we replied in unison, “It’s never too early for whiskey.” Dad is clearly an amateur.

As we moved down the road, we stopped at the tent for the “surgeon” of the time. I say “surgeon” because those persons who worked on the soldiers at the time of the war could be called such after being present for a few seminars – no actual experience required.

After that, we moved to the steward’s table in the confederate camp. At the time of the civil war, a steward was essentially the surgeon’s assistant, and no prior knowledge was necessary.

At his table, we learned about the role of Louisa May Alcott and Walt Whitman in medicine during the Civil War. Alcott was a nurse and wrote a book based on her experiences, and Whitman (who also wrote a book about the war) was involved with caring for soldiers.

The medic tents and tables have always been my favorite at the event because I am fascinated by the evolution of medicine and science, hence my degree in biology.

Once we got our fill of medical information, we wandered through the Confederate and Union soldier camps.

From the soldier camps, we moved to the civilian camp. Within the civilian camp is the Meeting Hall, goods tents that primarily sell replica items for the period, and more artisan tents. Naturally, the one that caught my attention was the Spinners & Weavers tent, which also featured a lace maker.

Start of a lace ornament

At 1:00 p.m. we watched a war reenactment. This particular reenactment is not of a particular battle, but more of a showcase of the battle style of the time. The battle lasted about a half an hour, and there was no shortage of cannon fire.

In addition to the battle actors, there are also actors for specific historical figures, including Harriet Tubman, M. Theo Kearney, and Clara Barton. These actors wander throughout the park interacting with attendees, and some give addresses or have question and answer sessions in the meeting hall. At 2:15, we listened to the Gettysburg Address performed by the Abraham Lincoln actor. When my dad first saw Lincoln, he told us all he was going to go up to him and say, “Hi, I’m Booth!” We concluded our trip at the broom making booth, hosted by a man out of Dinuba, CA who makes brooms for a living (which are sold at a number of local stores).

I am so glad that I was able to attend this year’s Civil War Revisited event, and am already planning for next year!

Quilting 101: Basic Steps

The purpose of this post is to serve as a general guide to quilting; it is not for a specific quilt and allows for immense amounts of personalization. All of my methods have been taught to me by an amazing seamstress, they do not cut corners, and they guarantee the same result every time.

*Disclaimer: I deliberately chose these fabric colors, binding, and thread so they would stand out from each other for the purposes of this post. In normal circumstances, I would not have this thread and binding with these fabrics.*

Below I have outlined the steps that are necessary and offer tips that I have found to be particularly useful. I use the term “step” loosely; I mean to describe this process in phases.

The most important advice I can give is this: never skip pinning.

Step 1: Pick a pattern, find fabric, and cut

There are hundreds of patterns and variations of patterns for quilt tops on the internet or printed in books and magazines. You could even make your own! Tip: choose a pattern you truly love – you will hit a point in the process where you want to burn or otherwise destroy the quilt, and if you are not absolutely committed to what you are doing, you may follow through.

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Once you have decided on a pattern, you will need to decide on fabrics unless it is a pattern that has a fabric pack available for purchase. Take your time with picking fabrics; visit multiple stores, take pictures of fabrics you like at each store to compare, mix, and match. Figure out how much of each fabric will be needed, and always get cuts that are slightly more than that.

Always double, triple, and quadruple check measurements before you cut. Especially with bigger projects and cuts, you get one shot at cutting. Fabric is expensive, and it would be awful to have to go buy another large cut because of a negligent first cut. I have had my share of scares (thankfully none have actually been wrong) and it is something I do everything in my power to not repeat.

Step 2: Assemble the quilt top

Once all the pieces have been cut, they must be sewn together (that is a no-brainer, I know). No matter how small the pieces are, pin them together. Sure, it may seem unnecessary and time consuming, but you know what’s more time consuming? Having to seam rip and resew what has just been sewn because it didn’t line up properly (that is also a fast-track to the aforementioned desire to burn everything). Having to rip a seam out also increases the chances of something happening to the fabric and a need to re-cut or get more fabric entirely (which can be tricky depending on the fabric).

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The example I have been using on these quilting posts is a simple block pattern done with fabric I found in my fabric drawer. Seams always have to be pressed; in this case, each row is pressed so the seams will be interlocking when sewn together (the bottom row seams were all pressed to the left, the next row of seams were pressed to the right, then the left, and the top seams were to the right), and the connecting seams are pressed open.

Step 3: Prepare batting and backing

Backing should be purchased at the same time as the fabric for the top to ensure it coordinates. The batting I use for all my quilts (in varying sizes) is found at JoAnn Fabrics.

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They offer a variety of sizes, this just happened to be the bag I could find most readily.

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At this point, you should have three components readily accessible: the completed top of the quilt, backing (in some cases this is two cuts of the same fabric sewn together), and batting. Make sure everything has been rid of wrinkles or there will be issues when it comes to quilting. The quilt top and the backing can be ironed, but I do not recommend this for the batting. To remove the wrinkles from the batting, I lay it over a table and run an iron a few inches above the material using the steam feature, while periodically pausing to straighten it.

Step 4: Assemble the 3 layers

This step requires a lot of space and ventilation. I usually do this in my garage with a boatload of heavy duty plastic, tape or weighted objects, and tables (and clamps) if the size of the project necessitates it. Quilt Basting Spray (pictured below) is one of the single greatest inventions, and it will make this step far less frustrating. This step is a lot easier with two people wrangling the fabric. Assembly can be accomplished in whatever order makes the most sense to you.

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There may be a more efficient way to do this, but the following paragraphs are a description of what I have found to be easiest – bottom to top.

My designated helper (a.k.a. mom) and I lay the backing face down as flat as possible on the plastic and secure the corners with masking tape or weighted objects. The backing should be larger than the top by a minimum of 6″ and possibly larger than the batting. We then (somewhat haphazardly) lay the batting over the backing. In a relatively organized manner, we fold or roll back approximately half of the batting. Start spraying the exposed backing with the basting spray in approximately 1′-2′ widths from person to person working from the middle towards the top or bottom edge. After each section is sprayed, unfold a corresponding amount of batting and “adhere” it to the backing using your hands to smooth any resulting wrinkles (I say “adhere” because while the spray holds the project together, it is very forgiving and can be readjusted as much as necessary). Once the first half is done, fold or roll back the other half and repeat.

Once both halves are adhered, I like to remove the tape or weights from the corners of the backing and flip the whole thing over to make sure no fabric bubbles have been created. If they have, you can pull the backing and batting apart as much as is necessary to flatten the area. Once everything is flat, flip it back over so the batting is on top and replace the tape or weights on the backing. I recommend taping or weighing down the corners of the batting if they extend beyond the backing, just in case.

Laying down the top requires a little more attention to alignment. I find this easiest to accomplish by folding the quilt top in half so the top and bottom edges are buddies. My helper (hi mom!) and I then take the short edges and hold them at either side of the previously laid backing and batting and lay the quilt top so it is centered on the backing (especially in the case of a seam). This is where the backing being larger than the top and batting comes in handy. As with the backing/batting, adhere the quilt top in sections from middle to the edges.

Once the top is adhered, sporadically pin all three layers together throughout the quilt. This helps to not only ensure that you stab yourself no fewer than a half a dozen times in the coming step, but that the quilting process (if done without a long arm machine) does not move any of the layers around; the adhesive can only do so much.

After pinning, use fabric shears to cut the batting and backing layers so they are around 3″ larger than the quilt top.

Step 4: Quilting

There is a lot of flexibility with this step. Some people choose to just stitch in the ditch created by each seam, some (like my example below) sew a wave-like pattern over each seam. Long arm machines are useful for more intricate designs, and some people choose to pay those who have long arm machines to take care of the quilting for them. The quilting step can be accomplished other ways, too. All of these are equally valid ways to quilt, and are truly at the discretion of the quilter.

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Once the sewing is finished, pins can be removed, and the edges need to be squared up.

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The middle and right “quilts” are cut for bias tape binding. Note that all 3 layers are now essentially the same size as the quilt top. The “quilt” on the left is cut for a binding job that is accomplished using the backing, which I discuss briefly in Two Types of Quilt Binding.

Step 5: Binding

I prefer to bind using bias tape. My goal as a quilter is to not make bias tape again, but I know someday a project will come along that will force me to do it, which will be fine, but inconvenient because of the literal day I will have to spend pressing it.

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The specifics of this step are outlined in Quilt Binding with Bias Tape.

Step 6: Admire the finished product!

Congratulations! You have reached the end of your project!

Quilt making is a very involved project, and I thoroughly believe that the finished product is worth it. This is a structured process that allows for enormous amounts of flexibility as far as time commitment, color, size, and level of detail.

Quilt Binding with Bias Tape

While I am sure this is not new or innovative information, the binding job on a quilt can complete or ruin the project. As such, I think it is important that everyone has access to instructions to properly complete binding using bias tape. Regardless of whether or not the second side is machine or hand sewn, the beginning “steps” are the same.

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Above is everything besides the machine and thread that is necessary for binding a quilt. At this point, the quilting is done and the edges have been lined up. I pre-measured and cut the lengths of bias tape so it would be easier to work with than a single 3 yard length for an 8.5″ x 8.5″ mini-quilt.

*Disclaimer: I deliberately chose these fabric colors, binding, and thread so they would stand out from each other for the purposes of this post. In normal circumstances, I would not have this thread and binding with these fabrics.*

Step 1: Pin bias tape to the back side of the quilt

I have seen an alarming number of tutorials skip pinning or pin incorrectly. Yes, you will likely stab yourself 10 times in the course of sewing with pins, but there will be no question about the quality of the finished product (and honestly, is it truly a labor of love if you don’t contribute blood, sweat, and tears?). Another common issue I see is when the “first” side is the quilt top. I am firmly in the camp that the proper “first” side for attaching binding is the back of the quilt.

In this step, pin one edge of the opened bias tape starting in the middle of one of the quilt sides to the left towards the first corner. This will make sewing the binding easier.

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When you reach the first corner, a few extra maneuvers will be needed so proper mitering can be accomplished.

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Fold the bias tape up to create a 45 degree angle.

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Then fold straight down.

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Then pin each side of the fold. A triangle of fabric should be free-standing once pinning is done.

Continue pinning down each edge, completing the corners as you did the first until you reach the free edge from the start.

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Once you get to the free edge, you have to decide how much overlap to have between the two ends. For a clean edge where the ends meet, fold the second end back into itself and envelops the first end. Pin the junction.

Step 2: Machine sew the first side

To attach the binding to the first side, I machine sew a presser foot distance from the edge of the bias tape. This will result in the sewn line to lie within the fold of the tape (which very well could be slightly inside the edge of the quilt top, batting, and backing).

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I always make the first side that is sewn the one that has the ends of the bias tape on it, and I choose to start sewing somewhere in between the previously determined first end and the first corner. At each corner, backstitching will be necessary.

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In part why I choose to finish the side with the bias tape ends first and last is so that it can be as tight of a fit as possible. This also helps ensure that there is no excess fabric to bunch around the edges.

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Step 3: Fold over and pin the bias tape to the front side

The goal of this step should be fairly self explanatory. This is also the step where the mitering on the corners is established. Thankfully this is an easy look to achieve.

Start folding the bias tape over to encapsulate the free edges of the 3 layers on any edge. I like to begin near the corner of the edge with the junction. Pin as you go. At the corner keeping the present side down will form a triangle of fold-over on the next side, fold the triangle down towards the quilt.

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Pin the corner or close to the corner. Once the corner is complete, continue along the edges and repeat the corners as above.

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Here is where the two bias tape finishes diverge. 

Machine Sewing Step 4: Sew the bias tape to the front

Beginning on the edge with the junction of the bias tape ends, begin to sew close to the inside edge of the bias tape.

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At the corner, pivot. With the needle down in the corner, raise the presser foot and rotate the quilt 90 degrees. Lower the presser foot and continue to sew.

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Once you make it around to the starting point, you are done!

Hand Sewing Step 4: Sew the bias tape to the front

Recommendation: get comfy because this will not be a “quick” finish (now might be a good time to re-start your favorite TV series). Pictured below is everything you will need to accomplish hand sewn binding.

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Working with maximum 2′ lengths of thread at a time; any more than that will get knotted or caught on the pins and it will make the process more frustrating.

As with every other step, I recommend starting on the edge with the junction between it and the first corner. Make a knot at the end of the thread and anchor the line approximately where you want to start sewing.

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The first move from here should be in the quilt top, followed by the edge of the binding. Stitches made on the quilt top should be as close as is reasonable to the seam created by sewing the bias tape to the back. Stitches on the bias tape should be along the folded edge. For best results, the start of one stitch and the end of the next on the quilt top or the bias tape edge should line up, as shown below. Make sure you only go through the first fabric layer and some of the batting, not all the way through. Stitches should be approximately 1/4″ wide.

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At the corner, make a small stitch in what will be the corner on the quilt top followed by a small stitch at the corner edge of the next side’s bias tape (pictured below). From here you will make stitches along the new side.

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Keep truckin’ on until you have used most of the thread presently on the needle. At a logical place along the edge, create a couple of knots in the same part of the edge that the original anchor was made. I also like to run the needle and thread through a small adjacent hidden area to further anchor the line.

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As with the first length of thread, anchor the new one and make the first new stitch on the quilt top. Continue in this manner until you reach the starting side.

Once the junction is reached on the quilt top, you will want to pay attention to the stitch sizes. This is so that you can ensure that an edge stitch will be needed at the junction.

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Once you return to the starting point, things get a little tight. You will want to make knots in the same edge area as mentioned before, but before tightening the knot, you will want to make sure that the stitches leading up to it have been pulled taught.

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Make a few more knots (harder than the first), and then do your best to snake (or baste, whatever description makes more sense to you) the tail of the thread under the edge (pictured below).

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Clip the loose thread ends, and you are home free!

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Look at that beautiful job you did!

 

Both finishes using bias tape are lovely and clean. The corners are beautiful, and the bias tape provides a polished look. Below I have included closeup looks and visual comparisons of hand sewing vs. machine sewing.

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Both quilt fronts; left is hand sewn, right is machine sewn
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Both quilt backs; again the left is hand sewn, the right is machine sewn

Two Types of Quilt Binding

I have been using bias tape to bind quilts since I started quilting in 2010. However, I recently learned that there is a second way (which is considered an “easy” way, or a quilting “hack”) to bind a quilt: essentially folding the overhang from the backing to cover the front.

I have seen a number of tutorials on both types of binding, and I do not believe that there is enough analysis of each provided. Each of these methods has shortcomings and benefits. Each also has its own variations. Below I will outline each of the methods and offer my input on what makes each worth using.

*Disclaimer: I deliberately chose these fabric colors, binding, and thread so they would stand out from each other for the purposes of this post. In normal circumstances, I would not have this thread and binding with these fabrics.*

Bias Tape Method

I have made bias tape once, and it is a very time consuming task. Instead of making bias tape, I buy it in 3-yard packages where the bias tape comes already double folded. Bias tape is first attached to one side about a quarter of an inch from the edge (using a machine). In my opinion, mitering is the only appropriate way to finish the corners in any circumstance. There are two ways to attach the binding to the second side (my second side is always the front): machine sewing and hand sewing.

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Finished machine sewn quilt front
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Finished hand sewn quilt front

Machine sewing is much faster, and the finish has a visible seam at the edge of the binding. I prefer to use this method on quilts that are larger and/or will be washed more frequently. Hand sewing takes much longer and has invisible seams. For my previous post So, what does a quilt cost? the binding time is approximate for machine sewing. I will also be posting step-by-step directions for both bias tape finishes.

Backing Method

I came across this method recently when I was helping a friend finish four quilts. In this case, the backing is folded over the front and machine sewn. There are two ways those who use the backing to bind finish the corners: square and mitered. The major downside to binding this way is that the corner finish only appears on one side.

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In my opinion, the squared finish (pictured above) looks unfinished and lazy.

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The mitered corners (above) look nice, but this detail only shows on the front side because of the way the initial attachment is accomplished (technically, skipped entirely).

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It is also worth noting that the quilting ends will be visible on the backside of quilts that have been finished using this method of binding.

For those of you who want to know how to do this, a tutorial I came across that I found the most useful for a mitered finish was on Cluck Cluck Sew.

Overall Thoughts

If the backing coordinates well with the top of the quilt, and if the quilting was done cleanly, using the backing to bind the quilt is a good option. As far as I am concerned, the only acceptable way to finish corners is mitering. Despite the ease of using the backing as binding, I know that I will continue to use bias tape for binding my own quilts.

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Yosemite During the NPS Centennial

While I lived in Colorado, I came to realize that I grew up an hour away from the park gates of Yosemite National Park and I took it for granted. In preparing to come back to California, I took it upon myself to make a conscious effort to be more of a tourist in my own backyard.

This past Wednesday, my dear friend Lela and I took a day and headed north on 41 toward Yosemite. If you’re planning on going that way soon and are not yet aware: traffic patterns are different in the park right now, namely traffic is two-way on the vast majority of the south side and the north side drive is either changed access or inaccessible.

As we drove into the park, we listened to Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. After making our way past the tunnel and into the valley, we drove through to Half Dome Village (Curry Village). We ate sandwiches out of the back of the car and then hopped on the shuttle that loops through the valley.

Our first activity for the day was a hike to see Vernal Falls. Both of us failed to realize that the mile and a half-ish each way hike is labelled “strenuous” because of the approximately 1000ft gain in elevation. By the time we reached the bridge, Lela was very pleased to see water because she was beginning to wonder if it was all part of an elaborate lie.

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The good news is that you can’t see the silent screams in our eyes as we reached the bridge

The last ~0.3 mi from the bridge to the fall was a push and involved a lot of rock touching, but we made it. It was comforting to know that some of those who summit Half Dome have to follow the same path.

After we made it back down from Vernal Falls (which was much faster, but equally painful), we stopped at a body of water that was downstream next to the road.

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Lela being adorable by the water

After stopping at the water, we got back on the shuttle to go to the next stop: the trail to Mirror Lake. Something we learned upon arriving is that Mirror Lake is a seasonal lake (and not actually a lake, so this trail was also suspect).

After the shuttle looped us back around to the car, we started our way back through the park the way we came, stopping at a few more locations as we went. Through the valley, our soundtrack was Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits.

Shortly after 4 p.m., we left the valley and headed up Glacier Point Road. This road (I discovered) is narrower than the rest of the roads in the park once you get above the pull off for the ski area, and not very accommodating of the tank. Gorillaz got us through this part of the trek.

We climbed the rails at Glacier Point, like the rebels we are, and spent the next hour and some leading up to sunset sitting on the overlook.

Also during that time, Lela assumed her rightful place as queen of the ravens.

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At sunset, we made our way back to an overlook (for those of you who haven’t been to the lot at Glacier Point, it is not good for sitting at) slightly down the road towards the main drive through the park.

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Our time being tourists in the park concluded somewhere after 9 p.m. following some stargazing, which was slightly obstructed because the moon was nearly full and the air was smoky from the controlled burns that the park service had been conducting. In my opinion, one of the most surprising and beautiful things about being that high up in that part of the park that late at night was seeing the campfires on the trail up Half Dome and on paths to other domes deep in the valley.

Glacier Point Road at 9:30 p.m. (on the other hand) looks like the set of a horror film, which we contributed to by listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Our trip back into town concluded with The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

This was a very long day, but it was 100% worth it. I am now a proud Yosemite National Park Annual Pass holder, and I am determined to go at least once each season through September 2017.

Disneyland Diamond Celebration: A Birthday, Graduation, and Well-Deserved Vacation

Hi, I’m Brittany, and I’m a Disney Addict. *Hi Brittany!* Some of my earliest memories consist of sitting on the floor in front of the television in my living room watching The Little Mermaid until I literally wore out the VHS tape. I was a touch obsessed.

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Take a special note of those rockin’ slippers

I used to go to Disneyland more frequently than I do now. Usually, I go with my family. (Fascinating tidbit: one of our past family trips was actually planned for us to arrive September 11, 2001, but for obvious reasons we didn’t go and got the trip refunded.) Over the years various friends have gone with us, been there at the same time, or have been working there, and as such have joined in on the adventure. Though, 3 of the 4 trips I currently have “planned” are with friends.

This trip was different from past trips for a few reasons. For my mom, it served as a birthday present and a more than deserved vacation for her after taking care of my couch-bound father for 4 months. Another purpose was to celebrate my college graduation. It was also the first trip to The Happiest Place On Earth we took without at least my dad and brother. As such, we wanted to make sure we took the time to do a lot of things we hadn’t done before.

 

Day 1: Sunday, August 21

We got to Anaheim around 11 a.m. where we checked in to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. Once our stuff was unpacked, we walked through Downtown Disney, looked in some shops, and had nachos at Tortilla Jo’s before heading towards the Disneyland Hotel.

At the recommendation of the internet and friends who were at Disneyland the week before us, we went to Trader Sam’s which is located between the pool for the Disneyland Hotel and the hotel’s Rose Garden.

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Imagine that the Tiki Room replaced the music for alcohol and chanting – that is Trader Sam’s. They also serve food and non-alcoholic beverages, and have both indoor and outdoor table service.

We decided to order an Uh-oA! which they recommend only be ordered by 2+ people (rightfully so, I might add) and they light on fire once they deliver it to your table.

After partaking in things that angered the tiki gods (or so we were told), we went to the Steakhouse 55 lounge and had lobster sliders for dinner. Shameful admission: I was in bed by 7:30 p.m. that night.

Day 2: Monday, August 22

My mom and I started our morning with a 6 a.m. power walk through California Adventure. As early as it was, I really liked it because it was a completely different way of experiencing the park. The 2 mile walk was a loop from the park entrance inside the Grand Californian that went through most of the park. As we walked through, we saw the workers power-washing the walkways, performing maintenance, and trucks delivering things throughout the park. After seeing the work that goes into preparing the park for opening, I have a renewed appreciation for the hard work behind the magic of Disney.

Once the parks were officially open, we headed over to Disneyland. Since it was just the two of us, we spent a little bit of time wandering through the stores. We then made our way to the Jungle Cruise and Indiana Jones before getting Castle pictures.

After Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, we made our way to Hyperspace Mountain, followed by  mac & cheese hot dogs (shame, shame, shame *ding-ding-ding*). Round 1 of Thunder Mountain concluded the morning in Disneyland.

The afternoon started in California Adventure where we looked in shops and went to the Cove Bar.

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My mom and I decided to split an order of Lobster Nachos and a Funwheel (it starts off being about 4 different colors.. I had started mixing it before the picture was taken), both of which I would recommend 10/10.

When the evening rolled around, we headed back to Disneyland for some rides and Dole Whip, then crossed back over to California Adventure for Tower of Terror and Soarin’.

Distance Walked: 8.15 mi + 2 mi power walk

Day 3: Tuesday, August 23

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Park day 2 started off with a churro on Main Street (believe it or not, I only had 2 the whole trip). Our first stop was Fantasyland and then we moved to Toontown, followed by the Matterhorn.

For lunch, I met my dear friend, king, and favorite Disney employee Paul at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe. I must say, the people watching in this part of the park is PRIME.

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If you need to find the FastPass Distribution for Space, he’s your guy!

Later that afternoon, my mom and I went back to Trader Sam’s. This trip, we sat outside and got a Piranha Pool, which was a far more reasonable drink for people who want to be a functioning park guest for the remainder of that day. When we returned to the parks, the rides included Radiator Springs Racers, Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters (which were ADORABLE), The Little Mermaid, Tower of Terror, Thunder Mountain, and Hyperspace Mountain.

Distance Walked: 10.58 mi

Day 4: Wednesday, August 24

On our last day we used the Magic Morning we had to go into California Adventure before park open. We beat the crowds to Toy Story Midway Mania (151,000+ points for me!) and a second round of Soarin’ which was followed by a collection of repeat rides once the park was fully open.

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I met a friend from high school who has since moved to the LA area at the La Brea Bakery for brunch in Downtown. After that, my mom and I returned to Disneyland for more rides, shopping, and pictures.

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The late afternoon was spent in California Adventure doing a few more rounds of some of the previously mentioned rides, which was followed by dinner at the Storyteller’s Cafe in the Grand Californian. We returned to DCA after dinner to ride the trolley and Tower of Terror in it’s current state one final time before heading back to Disneyland for a last call on purchases and rides.

In Disneyland, I bought a pair of 60th Anniversary ears. I had bought a pair of ears when my family went in 2005 for the 50th Anniversary, and it is now my goal to have a pair of ears for every 10-year anniversary from the 50th through the 100th [which I already tentatively have a trip planned for].

Distance Walked: 9.56 mi

 

Trip Stats:

Different Rides: 22

Total Ride Count: 38

Approx. Total Distance: 30.3 mi

 

Looking back at everything we did, I realize we did a LOT of park-hopping. We didn’t go on as many rides as we might “normally” have, but we experienced other things the parks and park property had to offer. On this trip I did realize that I am getting too old to have 3 full days in the park, as my joints and muscles are still on strike.

 

Side Note 1: Throughout the park they had set up some really cute 60th Anniversary photo spots for some of the more iconic attractions that I honestly wish were up for more than just the occasion.

 

Side Note 2: While the re-theming of Tower of Terror is something that I am not personally thrilled about, it caused me to take some time to look at the little details of the current facade before they go away. For a number of reasons, I thought it was fitting that I found this sign on the upper level.

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So, what does a quilt cost?

If you know me, you know I’ve been making quilts since I was 16. I love it, but there are a few reasons I don’t do it more often:

  • It’s an emotional roller coaster.
  • It’s physically painful.
  • I not only have to find the time, I have to find the space.
  • It’s expensive.

I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times, and inevitably there is at least one point while assembling the top where it doesn’t line up quite the way I want (read: need) it to (for my sanity and happiness) and I go through a phase where I question the whole project. Then comes the fact that I stab myself with pins pretty severely during the actual “quilting” process (keep in mind, I don’t do any fancy designs, but in the future I would like to have one of those deserves a whole room to itself long arm quilting table contraptions). I have drawn blood from various points on my hands, with the occasional arm and leg getting itself mixed in there, and many choice profanities have accompanied these stabbings. Along with this, I spend hours bent over a table, on the floor folding (and re-folding) before sewing rows, and can barely use my hands anymore (if I do all the quilting in one sitting) from feeding all the fabric through the machine (the poor feeders can only do so much, regardless of the machine you’re on). By the time I am done, I am physically and mentally exhausted, and more than deserving of a massage appointment.

Most of the quilts I make end up being at least the size of a full comforter (minimum about 78″ x 86″); my last two projects, t-shirt quilts, we’re all within the queen range (minimum about 86″ x 86″).

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One of the two quilts I did most recently which ended up being about 87″ x 87″

Most people don’t have open areas in their homes to accommodate this, and I have been known to lay out and tape down heavy-duty plastic in our two-car garage for assembly of the backing, batting, and top piece which averages an hour on its own (laying everything so it’s even/straight which often takes longer than desired even with two people, pinning throughout, cutting edges so it all is the same size, and starting to fold it so it can fit in the machine to start quilting).

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Lastly, I said it was expensive. So, how much does it all cost? That varies slightly with design, fabric used (all fabrics are NOT created or priced equal), size, and whether or not it is a t-shirt quilt, etc. As an example, let’s look at one of the t-shirt quilts I did recently (pictured above)…

Materials (calculated from receipts):

  • Sashing: $22.46
  • Muslin to back t-shirts (some skip this step, but it ensures the integrity of the shirt over time): $13.50
  • Spray Adhesive (per can): $15.99
  • Thread: $5.99
  • Backing: $57.70
  • Batting: $52.75
  • Binding: $6.87

Materials total: $175.26 before tax, with no coupons

*Note – this does not include cost of rotary blades, mats, tables, electricity, fabric scissors, the actual sewing machine, needles, etc.* 

It is also noteworthy that the cost of fabric on t-shirt quilts is probably an underestimate of the cost of a traditional quilt because a lot of the top is composed of old shirts and not fabric bought specifically for the project.

Now let’s look at labor (approximate, and can vary greatly):

  • Time spent planning/measuring (and re-measuring/calculating…you get 1 shot at it) before cutting: honestly, days. For these purposes we will just say 6 hours
  • Time spent cutting: about 3 hours
  • Time spent putting shirt pieces on muslin: about 1 hour
  • Time spent pinning and sewing the top together: at least 8 hours
  • Time to assemble: about 1 hour
  • Time quilting: at least 6 hours
  • Time for binding (highly variable based on whether bought or made, coupled with whether hand or machine sewn; this case is bought/machine): about 10 hours

That is a grand total of 35 hours. Now assuming your time is worth $10 an hour, you would pay yourself about $350 for this quilt.

All of that put together (cost of materials + cost of labor) would make the price of this quilt $525.26.

 

DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this is to inform the general public. When I make quilts for people, they tend to be because of a special occasion (commemoration of a family member who had tons of t-shirts that were meaningful to other members of the family following their death, as a gift for a wedding, that kind of thing), and it is because I have offered. Although I don’t mind doing that every once in awhile, gifting quilts is not sustainable financially, and I feel that this is the best way to explain that.