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linda@surroundedbyscraps.com
Portland, OR

503-997-8958

Handmade quilts and home accessories by fiber artist Linda Nussbaum. See samples of past projects as well as pieces available for sale and inspirations for custom orders. To see what is currently available for sale, please visit my Etsy Shop.

Surrounded by Scraps

Finding Rhythm

Linda Nussbaum

One of our local treasures here in Portland is a phenomenal jazz radio station, KMHD. They are not technically public radio, in that I don't believe they receive any municipal or governmental funds, though they are an affiliate of OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting). They call themselves a "listener-supported" station - which means semi-annual pledge drives. I don't recall when I discovered this station, though I became a regular listener several years ago due to a now defunct Wed. evening program called Divaville (actually, it was their Friday night Blues broadcast live from Holman's Bar & Grill that really drew me in initially, now that I think of it...)

Digressions. A few weeks ago KMHD held their spring pledge drive. For a few years I would wait until these pledge drives to make contributions to the station, receive my thank-you swag and search for the receipts 'round about tax time. But when I realized that this really is my go-to radio station, more than any other, I decided to sign up for their regular giving program, referred to as their Rhythm Section. This way it's something I don't have to think about constantly, an amount I don't miss each month but if I were pledging all at once would feel substantial, and a way to know that I am contributing to something from which I take daily. 

Me wearing some of said swag. I wear this cap regularly and it suits me so well that I stopped opting for gifts from them once I got this!

Me wearing some of said swag. I wear this cap regularly and it suits me so well that I stopped opting for gifts from them once I got this!

Now to tie in with my work in the sewing studio. I feel like my rhythm comes and goes there, the only constant flow is my work with my charity quilting bee, do.Good Stitches, and even that has its stops and starts. So far this year I have probably been less prolific than I have in recent years past, but I can honestly say that the work I am doing in the studio is making me happy. I might go so far as to say uplifting. I have 2-3 active sketchbooks going for quilt designs and have made a small fraction of the quilts that get pencilled in, but this year I am trying to change that.

Not EVERY project I work on is a design that I have been kicking around, in fact one of my most satisfying quilts so far this year is a simple, large-scale half square triangle quilt, made for a friend who is showing no mercy in the face of cancer. The feeling I had while making this quilt couldn't be half as kick-ass as her attitude and spirit!

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My goal for this year is NOT to attempt to grow my business, but to grow my art. It's a much-needed perspective change for me that I truly hope will keep both robust. If I look at my creative inspiration as I do my contributions to my favorite radio station, pursuing a little bit on a regular basis ultimately sustains the process rather than going full-steam just a couple of times a year.

Finally got around to quilting a pair of pillow covers I pieced some time last year. Steamrolling ahead!

Finally got around to quilting a pair of pillow covers I pieced some time last year. Steamrolling ahead!

Starting to work on one of those afore-mentioned designs that's been hanging out on a sketchbook page for too long. Soooo satisfying!

Starting to work on one of those afore-mentioned designs that's been hanging out on a sketchbook page for too long. Soooo satisfying!

I Blame the Smart Phone

Linda Nussbaum

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So easy to say, and yet it has become a constant part of my life too. The conveniences are innumerable, but I've noticed that there are some things I used to do regularly that I overlook now. One of those things is using a camera to take photos of my sewing, which means I would have to upload to my computer and resize the photos on a regular basis in order to share. Now, with Instagram, Flickr and Facebook apps, etc. the snapshots go directly from my phone to social media (and whomever might take a look at them) without needing to be dumped onto my laptop. And that last step is a crucial one for me to work on blog entries (at least on the platform I use and am familiar with). 

And has anyone noticed how freaking big those photo files are coming off the phone?? I still have DSL — just saying ;).

So today I am taking some time to be at my computer, plug my phone in and do some "office work." Oh, and to share what I decided to do for my handmade holiday gifts (even though a few of them are still sitting on my dining room table waiting to be packed up and shipped out!)

My initial idea was to make wallets — you know, for those ubiquitous smart phones. I started playing around with different tutorials, combining some and seeing what I got (and can I just say that Pinterest and Google images were invaluable in this whole process!!):

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I made several that I rather liked, using fabrics that I thought various members of my family would enjoy before a crucial fact stopped me in my tracks. I have always been a bit behind in the smart phone galaxy (pun only slightly intended). Some of you may know that I tenaciously held on to my Nokia flip phone as long as it was operable, up until the battery barely held a charge for 6 hours or so. This would have been fall of 2013, I think. My first smart phone was gifted me right around that time when my brother and brother-in-law had a replacement iPhone 4 coming to them under warranty just when the iPhone 5 was being released. So, I was the lucky recipient of the "old" generation replacement.

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I still have that same iPhone 4. All of the wallets I had made thus far were fitted to my phone, which as I learned is MUCH smaller than any of the phones currently in use by people who care about updating their technology. Oops.

I eventually decided to bite the bullet and ask outright what types of phones family members use and looked up the dimensions online. From this I tested out one of the patterns I had played around with using new dimensions. But there were two major flaws with this approach. 1) I didn't have any phone models to actually test that what I was spending my time and fun fabrics on would work in the end; 2) Do you know how many different versions of phones there are and that every dang one is a different size?!? I gave in, but not before developing a phone wallet tutorial for Cool Cottons' blog in early December using one of those gifts.

The sample I used for the Cool Cottons tutorial, found at the link above, about 3-4 entries below the "Happy New Year" Post.

The sample I used for the Cool Cottons tutorial, found at the link above, about 3-4 entries below the "Happy New Year" Post.

Moving on. I went back to my Pinterest board of "gift ideas" and noted the photo that was actually the cover photo for that board, a remote control caddy from a blog post by Becky of My Fabric Obsession. There was no tutorial listed, but it was not too difficult to work out something similar. I also learned that I kind of dig box pleats!

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Those all went out prior to Christmas (if BARELY). I've since made one more, and might even consider making one for my own home! Novel, I know!!

In addition to the caddies I made some special for each of the nieces and nephew (again, 2 of them have not yet been sent, as my older nieces were traveling over the holidays, which I viewed as a short reprieve on deadlines ;)

Appropriately topical pillow cases for my 10 yr. old nephew.... whom I learned had gone to see the new movie with his dad the first day of release, I think.

Appropriately topical pillow cases for my 10 yr. old nephew.... whom I learned had gone to see the new movie with his dad the first day of release, I think.

My first makeup bag... and my first zipper bag ever. I used this  fabulous tutorial  from The Sewing Chick!

My first makeup bag... and my first zipper bag ever. I used this fabulous tutorial from The Sewing Chick!

Also my first attempt using the heat-applied vinyl coating for fabric. A makeup bag of which you can wipe out the interior is superior, right?

Also my first attempt using the heat-applied vinyl coating for fabric. A makeup bag of which you can wipe out the interior is superior, right?

The following are what are still sitting right in front of my computer ready to be wrapped in outdated holiday paper and sent off with our second batches of cookies this weekend.

Another makeup bag. And yes, I kind of cheated on my fabric selection, but I think it will suit her well, though it was really the fabric I used for the interior that I had selected specifically for this niece.

And one more niece to go... It all came full circle with a wallet!

There were a couple of other little things thrown in the mix, but I will say that after a rather long hiatus from my sewing studio (and from inspiration in general) these projects have helped bring me back. I am and always will be a hopeless procrastinator, but when it comes down to deadlines, I'll get to work!

So bring on some deadlines, 2016!!

Some designs to pursue

Linda Nussbaum

Wow! I am seriously out of practice here! And I mean that in so many ways, but primarily on the blogging front. I will say that in the last few months I've at least added a post or two on The Creative Bungalow website, and just last week I posted a phone wallet tutorial on Cool Cottons' blog. I'll eventually repost that tutorial here, but that might have to wait until after the holiday season.

As I am trying to get ducks in a row, plan new projects and simply looking for inspiration going forward I decided to revisit some of the designs I created during my short-lived activity with the Quilt Design A Day Facebook group. Here are a few of the ones that still appeal to me and I think may have some potential:

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As you can see, there's really no rhyme or reason to this grouping. Colors are completely disparate, design elements vary quite dramatically, but all look to me like I'd enjoy making the quilt. I suppose I should first concentrate on finishing a few of the MANY projects I already have in the works, which of course included actually quilting a dozen or so tops, but isn't it fun to think ahead?? 

Do you have a pattern or design you've been eyeing and are excited to try out? If so, I would love to see what's inspiring you today!

Accentuating One's Strengths; Accepting One's Weaknesses

Linda Nussbaum

So much about getting through this world depends on recognizing one's strengths and one's weaknesses. I would say that this applies to pretty much anything we do, but I'm here to talk about sewing, right?

In the last few years since I've started making items for sale I have gotten a few special requests as well as multiple inquiries about certain items related to those available. For instance, with the pot holders many people have asked about oven mitts. A good question and very useful item! Initially it never even occurred to me because I don't use the one I have. Just doesn't hit my radar.   But this isn't necessarily about what I would use. So I gave it a shot.

Those guys above are about as far as I got in this experiment. As you can see I tried to use the template offered with the Insult-Bright roll of heat-reflective batting, but neither fit very well. On the one with the bats the loop ended up on the INSIDE, the other one has the loop going at some skewed angle. The thumbs are too tight and it was all just awkward. I tried once more with little more success.

That's the stage at which I say, "I've been doing just fine sticking with pot holders. I'm sure I could improve upon my technique for these guys given lots more practice, but that is time and materials I really don't want to spend right now, especially with uncertain success rates in the stars." Abandon ship.

A little further down the road I started playing with the skillet handle cozies.

At my booth display I include an actual cast iron skillet to model how these guys fit the handle, but invariably I get questions as to what they are. And at least 2 or 3 times at the last show someone wondered whether they would work as a case for her readers.

Bingo!

So that is my new bulk project, to make eye glasses cases using the EXACT SAME TECHNIQUE as the skillet handle cozies. So much so that my first prototype even includes a layer of the Insult-Bright — whoops! 

Obviously the sizes are different, and I've added that little dip along the edge, which requires a bias binding, but all in all this is merely an adaptation of something I am already doing and feel confident with. 

*Note: My glasses do fit all the way inside the case — they are just sticking out for illustrative purposes.

*Note: My glasses do fit all the way inside the case — they are just sticking out for illustrative purposes.

They will make their debut at the Art in the Rose Garden exhibit at Peninsula Park Rose Garden on Sunday August 16. There may be a somewhat meager supply, but their numbers are growing slowly and steadily. And with excitement (unlike those oven mitts)!!

Staying up on updates

Linda Nussbaum

All of you bloggers out there are familiar with this, no doubt. We keep making, keep doing, maybe even keep documenting. Then comes time to make sure those new pursuits are shared with others in this social media world. For me this can be a struggle.

After unloading my car from the St. Johns Bizarre street fair a couple of weeks ago I quite promptly started taking photos of some of the smaller inventory items still in my care. As I think I mentioned briefly before the fair, the plan was to document items coming back with me in the hopes that there would be MANY fewer to document and that I wouldn't be posting items that subsequently sold just days later.

So I took photos. Lots and lots of photos:

There are dozens and dozens of these guys. Many are still unedited. And there's the crux of the delay. Don't you find it mind-numbingly tedious to just resize, crop and enhance the lighting of one product photo after another?? Well, I certainly do. So I put it off. Indefinitely.

I'm trying to be better. Trying to share the positive in what is going on at the Surrounded by Scraps Studio. Trying to stay connected with other bloggers. Trying to spend an appropriate amount of time both making, editing and sharing my work. Always trying.

With this surge of motivation there will also be updates to my gallery and shop pages. Step by step. And if anyone has tips for me, bring 'em on!!

Street Fair in review

Linda Nussbaum

I've now had a week to decompress, take stock (literally) and go through just a few photos since breaking down my booth in St. Johns. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how one looks at it, I was too preoccupied during the day to take many photos at the street fair, but I did manage to get some shots of the initial booth set-up:

As the day went on I made some notes about how to better my booth arrangement if ever I do this again, which I am thinking is quite likely. For one, I liked seeing the booths where the artist's chair was not blocked off from the customers by tables. I did feel a bit separated at times. I also noticed that folks were not immediately seeing nor grabbing my business cards. I moved some around throughout the day and of course landed on the obvious answer - put a stack right up at the front of the tables, even if it breaks up the "display".

And signs. I was sorely lacking in signs. I had priced and tagged most of my inventory and had price lists posted in 2 places, but now realize that placards at the display stations is the way to go. Filing that one away for future reference! 

Also I had a generous friend agree to sit with me for the day, help with set-up, watching the booth (and the one next door) so we could take breaks and best of all she helped me break down the booth at the end of the day. Thank goodness we had a gorgeous day to chill and hang out, visit with each other and the passers-by, do a little hand-sewing to pass the time. And we got visits from friends we haven't seen in years! That was probably the best part of the day, honestly.

So yes, all in all a very good experience. I now know what items to bulk up for the next go-round and which to let ride.

And I learned that cute bunnies hopping among mushrooms appeals greatly to adult men in N. Portland! I <3 PDX!

St. Johns Bizarre Street Fair, May 9, 2015

Linda Nussbaum

It may take me a year or so to update my "Updates" section on this website, but when there's something really good I do get around to it! For instance, the upcoming street fair held in St. Johns, Portland, OR at which I will have a booth... This will be the 9th year of the St. Johns Bizarre and the first that I have applied to participate. I couldn't be more thrilled to be a part of this. It's a great neighborhood with its own character (completely separate from the popularized Portland hyperboles, though may carry a few of its own) in a beautiful part of the area and I am honored to have been accepted as a vendor.

Any of you who follow my Instagram will have seen some pics lately of last-minute inventory additions I am making for this event. I'm bolstering my pot holders, pan handle cozies and coasters for starters.

Can you tell I've been much better about the process shots than finished product shots? Maybe that's something to take into account and try to work on the next couple of weeks? The optimist in me says to wait until after next Saturday in the hopes that there are fewer products to photograph... that could also be the procrastinator talking — she has a much louder voice.

So, short of a few more bindings on pot holders and a bunch of topstitching for the coasters I feel like I've done a decent job of reinforcing my standards. The next step was figuring out if I wanted to offer something more (I mean, I will be taking place mat sets and smaller quilts that were already made). I currently have only 2 table runners in inventory, one of which is decidedly winter/holiday themed, and at the last show I did with Cherie several people asked about runners. And I did start working on one, but as I got further along it felt more like a row for an improv quilt than a stand-alone table topper. That has happened before, so I think table runners just may not be my thing. Not that I won't try again some time!

My next thought was throw pillows. I've made a few, I have fun with them, but I only had one pair in stock. Time to change that!

It's almost down to the 11th hour and there's still a lot to do (do I have enough tags printed out for everything?? Where did I find that skinny ribbon I was using for tying on the tags? I need more of that! I keep forgetting to log into my PayPal app to update the products there...) but I am sure it will come together.

In addition I have some great people in my corner... Cherie has been invaluable and is loaning me several items for a successful booth, including the outdoor canopy (and there may just be a few options available from The Creative Bungalow). Jenny has agreed to come and hang out with me during the day helping at the booth. Then of course there's J who will hopefully be decompressing from a big event that he is hosting tomorrow and has agreed to take care of our pup while I'm off for 12 or so hours. I keep thinking it would be rad to have a booth dog, but dear Atlas just isn't that dog — not chill enough.

I hope to see many of you Portland locals wandering around the booths, food carts, craft tents, listening to the live music and (fingers crossed) enjoying a lovely sunshiny Saturday in May!

Selfish Sewing in Disguise

Linda Nussbaum

Pardon me while I shake off some of the dust that has gathered on these keys here... I didn't realize exactly how long it had been since my last blog post until going in and getting ready to write this one! I may be a bit rusty at this, but here goes:

Instead of the full onslaught of all of the projects and activities I've been working on over the last 2+ months I'll jump right on in to one in particular (that is still in progress - surprise, surprise!). Earlier this year Cherie and I did some pattern shopping for The Creative Bungalow at E.E. Schenck, a local quilting and craft distributor here in Portland. Often on these trips each of us will find a pattern that strikes us much more than the other, but for the most part we make a point of coming to a consensus on our purchases for the business.

On this particular trip we picked up a pattern by Madison Cottage Design, Citrus Punch.

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We felt this would work really well with some of the fabrics we had been collecting, but still needed a few more to build out the kit properly.

And yet I was eager to give this a shot, so I decided to "pattern test" it using my own stash. Although I have many (MANY) fabrics with which to play I kept seeing my Kaffe Collective collection filling the spot. So I jumped right in.

An initial fabric pull.

An initial fabric pull.

These guys lend themselves so well to the mixing and matching that the pattern calls for. I did my best to go for decent contrast with the accent strips in these stage 1 blocks, then commenced with more slicing and dicing.

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and mixing and matching...

At this point it's really just a matter of piecing all of the quarter-square triangle blocks and playing around on the design wall. Did you hear that? Playing around on the design wall!!

I've since gotten distracted by more pressing projects (another shock, I'm sure!) but this will remain on the design wall until I get all of the blocks complete and the final layout decided. I like to think I did a good thing making sure this pattern sews up well — which it absolutely does — before committing it to one of The Creative Bungalow kits. Good deed indeed!