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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “Q.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter Q…is for Quilting.

For over four years, Sophia and Olivia have been learning how to quilt. They started hand-sewing a bit before machine-sewing to get comfortable with a thread, needle, and fabric.

One of the first projects that the girls did was a simple patchwork quilt. They picked fabric from what I had on hand (a lesson in itself of resourcefulness and making do).

For some of their first sewing projects, they traced squares onto the back/wrong side of the fabric and then cut them out. They moved onto measuring and marking lines on the fabric. Sophia now can use a rotary cutter to cut fabric.

Assembling the Quilt
Olivia arranging squares for her first patchwork quilt.
She’s about 4 years old here (2007).

One of Olivia’s favorite quilts that she made was one using fabric she found at a quilting store in Pella, Iowa. The girls, my parents, and I traveled to Pella in the spring to see the tulips. There was a wonderful quilting store right off the main square.

Olivia liked a printed fabric with dogs on it. From that pattern, she picked several other fabrics to coordinate with it. She cut, arranged, and sewed all the pieces together to create her quilt.

Olivia with the Quilt She Made
Olivia made this quilt using fabric she found at a quilt shop on a trip.
This quilt holds special meaning and memories for her.
She was 6 years old when she made this quilt (2009).

Olivia entered her quilt in the county fair in the youth open class division. She was competing with children up to the age of 16 years old in her category.

She won first prize… a blue ribbon (there are only 6 ribbons – 1st through 6th place – awarded in a category). Needless to say, she was thrilled!

Olivia - Blue Ribbon on Quilt
Olivia with the quilt she made
that won her a blue ribbon!

For 2010, at 7 years old, she wanted to challenge herself to do something different. She looked with me at pictures of quilts on Flickr and saw one that she liked. It was a circular quilt made from a variety of fabrics.

The quilt she saw was done in rainbow colors with a white center. Olivia wanted to do hers in all blue fabrics with a white center. Since there was no pattern, we had to create a pattern for the blue pieces and center white piece.

Olivia chose a variety of textures also for the blue pieces which posed a bit of a challenge since each had a different “pull” to it. She had to try sewing different types of fabric together which was a good skill to learn.

Another skill she learned was doing free-style quilting. On the white fabric, she moved her presser foot around in a random pattern to secure the top, batting, and backing together.

Olivia Working on Quilt
Olivia working on her blue and white circular quilt.
She’s doing some free-motion quilting to secure the top, batting, and backing together.
Olivia was 7 years old when she did this quilt (2010).

Sophia started making quilts in 2006 (when she was 5 years old) and did a simple doll-size patchwork quilt from a kit she received for Christmas. The nice thing about the kit was that the squares were already cut for her. She simply had to sew them together and then create the quilt.

Once she learned how to do that she wanted to create another quilt using fabric that she picked out from what I had on hand. She used the same method as I used with Olivia (tracing of the shape on the fabric and then cutting it out).

By 2008, she was enjoying quilting so her grandma gave her a quilting kit in her favorite color: pink. The kit came with the fabric and pattern, but Sophia had to cut each piece for the quilt.

The fabric was a variety of textures – cotton, satin, and minky.  It was delightful to feel (from a sensory perspective). In terms of sewing…a bit more challenging, especially for a beginner quilter.

She patiently worked on the quilt and was so pleased with how it turned out. She used the quilt and enjoyed how it felt with the different textures.

Sophia in Bunkbed Camping with Quilt She Made
Sophia in a bunk bed in a camper cabin.
She wanted to bring her quilt on her first camping trip.
Sophia was 7 in this picture (2008).

By the following year, Sophia set a goal of making a quilt for her bed. She wanted a quilt in colors that she liked. We checked out some books from the library and she found a pattern that she liked. After a visit to the fabric store, she was ready to start making her quilt.

Sophia Laying Out Her Quilt
Sophia placed the pieces for her quilt on the floor.
She would pin the pieces she needed to sew as she went along.
Sophia is 8 years old in this picture (2009). 

She was happy with how her quilt turned out; and has used it on her bed since she made it.

Sophia's Finished Quilt
Sophia holding her finished quilt.

She entered the quilt in county fair and received a red ribbon on it (second place). At 8 years old, she was in the category with children up to 16 years old. 

Sophia - Red Ribbon on Her Quilt
Sophia by her quilt at the county fair.
She was 8 years old.

When Sophia was 9 years old, she tried a different form of quilting. Her grandma gave her a pre-printed image on fabric. Sophia quilted around different parts of it to give it texture and definition. She added sequins and beads to embellish it, and then finished off the quilt. 

She entered it into the county fair for one of her 4-H needlework projects. In 4-H, the children talk with a judge who asks them questions about their project and determines how much they understand about their project area. Sophia received a blue ribbon for her project which made her happy.

Sophia Talking About Quilted Wallhanging
Sophia meeting with a 4-H judge to discuss her project.

During the 2010-2011 homeschool year, Sophia took a sewing class at the homeschool co-op. One of the projects she worked on was learning quilting patterns.  During the spring, she learned six new patterns. She chose to sew the squares together to make a little lap or doll quilt.

Sophia with her Quilt
Sophia holding a lap or doll quilt that
shows six new patterns that she learned.
She’s 10 years old (2011).

Quilting has been an important part of homeschooling for the girls. In addition to art/creative expression, quilting helps with math and reading. I’ve also integrated geography and history when doing some of the quilts.

With a back-to-homeschool trip to New England in September to celebrate the start of a multi-year/multi-disciplinary geography study, the girls are excited to visit a quilt shop in New Hampshire that has over 5,000 bolts of fabric.

They each want to pick some fabric so they can make a quilt when they return home. Having a tangible reminder of this special time together is something that I hope they look back on with good memories in years to come.

Peek-a-Boo with the Sewing Machine
Looking back….
Olivia at 4 years old working on her first quilt.
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For those of you who also have been participating in The Summer of Color and/or who are following along each week, thank you for all the positive comments about what I’ve made each week. Thanks to

During the challenge, I’ve enjoyed creating a variety of window stars and quilt squares in each of the featured colors. The encouraging and uplifting comments have been such day-brighteners for me!  Thank you! 

I’ve been enjoying seeing the creativity and beautiful items that the participants create each week. It’s amazing how diverse all the items are even though we are all using the same color. 

For this week, Kristin assigned the color orange. So, I made two orange window stars that have 16 points each.  Each star is made with a special translucent paper that lets the sun’s light shine through and illuminate the pattern.

Orange Sunburst Star with 16 Points
Orange window star to brighten a room.

This past week I had an interesting thing happen: a hummingbird visited one of the window stars I made that had four colors in it: red, orange, yellow, and pink.

It hovered around the window star for quite a while which was such a treat to see!

Autumn Window Star
I’m wondering if the hummingbird will come back
this week and visit the window stars.

I added a couple more orange stars on August 2nd:

I usually don’t make a lot of orange window stars,
but the summer sun seems to make the patterns more defined.

I finished two more quilt squares so there are now 16 squares ready to be made into a quilt. 

Two quilt squares in orange-patterned fabric.

I’m beginning to think about how to put all the squares together into The Summer of Color Quilt. I’m committed to only using what I have on hand, and it looks like white is the color of fabric that I have the most of – so that will (most likely) be the background of the front of the quilt (in between each of the squares).

The back side of the quilt will be the twin sheet that my daughter no longer uses. It’s a very soft cotton with a high thread count.

It has images of lavender pale lavender violets with a plum- and yellow-color center.  There are 1-2 leaves behind each flower.

With purple and green as my favorite colors, this seemed to be the best piece of fabric for the backing.

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “P.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter P …is for Painting.

One of the activities that the girls enjoy doing is painting. When they were younger, they did quite a bit of wet-on-wet watercolor painting.

Watercolor Painting
Sophia doing a wet-on-wet watercolor painting.

I would soak the watercolor paper in water for a bit, lightly dry it off, and then she would paint using all-natural paints. The paints were made from plants and were from Germany. They were nice quality paints which resulted in some pretty colors.

Initially, I had the girls start with painting only one color. Then they learned to combine a couple of colors.

They also have enjoyed painting clothes and accessories.  When they were younger, the painting was more abstract; and as they grew older the did more representational/realistic painting.

Olivia Decorating a Purse with Fabric Paint
Olivia decorating a purse with fabric paint.
She is wearing a shirt she painted and
used when she did art and crafts projects.

One Christmas, the girls received paint kits. They traced the first letter of their first name onto a canvas and then added different shapes and swirls around the letter. Using a variety of acrylic paint, they created their own unique images.

Painting on the Day after Christmas
The girls painting the first letter of their first name on canvas.

Another activity the girls enjoyed was tracing their hands onto canvas, coloring the hand with oil pastels, and then painting with watercolors around the outside of the handprint.

Olivia Painting with Watercolors on Canvas
Olivia making a handprint picture
with oil pastels and watercolors.

They also have enjoyed painting without a paintbrush. They’ve used fingers, hands, pine needles, marbles, and vegetables.

Sophia Doing Marble Painting
Sophia doing a Valentine’s Day painting with marbles.
Sophia Painting Her Potato Print Shamrock
Sophia carved a heart into a potato.
Then, she made 3 prints of the heart to make a clover shape.
She added the stem, ground, and
some details with a paintbrush.

Doing vegetable and fruit printing was a fun process. Using peppers, apples, celery, and other fruits and vegetables yielded some interesting and pretty prints.

Vegetable Print Painting in Ag Class
The girls with other homeschoolers doing
fruit and vegetable printing.

Using hands and getting messy are the fun parts of painting for the girls.

Olivia Making a Handprint Christmas Tree
Olivia made a handprint Christmas tree.
She’s painting the tree trunk and snow with a paintbrush. 

In addition to creating their own images and work, they also enjoy using painting kits. Early on, they did some simple watercolor painting with pre-printed images.

Sophia Watercolor Painting
Sophia doing watercolor painting with pre-printed images.

When they were 7 and 9 years old, they each did a paint-by-numbers kit. These are not the kits that I grew up with which were substantially easier.

These kits had very tiny spaces, lots of blending of paints, and required much patience and time. The end-product is one that both the girls were so proud of and framed.

Olivia Painting by Numbers
Olivia doing a paint-by-numbers painting.

They each entered their paint-by-numbers paintings in the county fair and/or 4-H; and both did very well. Entering the paintings for 4-H (in Cloverbuds and Crafts) was a great way for the girls to share their experience about painting and what they liked/found challenging about the process.

Olivia with Cloverbud Judge
Olivia meeting with the 4-H Cloverbud judge
to discuss her painting.
She’s 7 years old in this picture.
Painting has been and will continue to be an important part of homeschooling. It’s been something the girls truly enjoy, and it gives them an opportunity to creatively express themselves.

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For the 30th book that I read this year as part of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I chose Golden Sun by Ruth Sanderson. This is actually a youth fiction book that I read to Olivia, but it fits the goals of the challenge (e.g., over 100 pages, has a plot).

The book is the fifth one in the Horse Diaries series, and is a wonderful story that combines history, Native American life, and horses.
Much like how the book Black Beauty is narrated by Black Beauty (the horse) himself, Golden Sun is written in a conversational tone and told from the perspective of the horse (also named Golden Sun).
Golden Sun is a chestnut snowflake Appaloosa. During the summer, he treks through the mountains with his rider, a Nez Perce boy named Little Turtle who collects healing plants. He accompanies Little Turtle on his Vision Quest where both realize their true calling.
Golden Sun intersperses words used by the Nez Perce which Olivia and I knew because we had read the Kaya books (an American Girl series about a Nez Perce girl).
The Kaya books had a translation/dictionary in the back to explain what the Nez Perce words meant which was helpful. Having read that series first, we had a greater appreciation and understanding of Golden Sun.
Golden Sun has realistic, beautiful illustrations by Ruth Sanderson. Her ability to capture the detail and beauty of horses is consistent throughout the entire Horse Diaries series.
There is a sixth book in the series that will be released (hopefully) soon. Both Olivia and Sophia are looking forward to reading it.

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Here it is Week 7 of The Summer of Color challenge. This week’s color is one of my favorite ones: purple (another favorite color of mine is green). 

When I was growing up, my bedroom was all purple – the walls, the carpet, and even the decorative stenciling at the top of the walls near the ceiling. Anything I made for the room – a quilt, a picture, a pillow – had something purple in it. 

Needless to say, I was excited to work with purple this week, and made some window stars.  Two of the stars are created from patterns that I have used regularly.

The sun was so bright in the afternoon
which revealed the patterns in each of the window stars.

The third pattern (the star on the bottom in the picture above) is one that I designed a couple weeks ago. I’ve been playing around with the pattern in different colors (solo and color combinations).

This is the newest pattern that I created.

A bit about the window stars: the translucent paper is cut into small pieces for each of the points. I hand-fold each of the points multiple times and then glue the points together. Once all of the points are attached, the pattern of the star is revealed.

Some of the stars are easy. For example, the star on the upper right has only five folds per point (with ten points, that’s 50 folds to make the star).

It took 50 folds to make this star.

Other stars are a bit more complicated. The star on the upper left in the picture above has 10 folds per point. It has 8 points, so that’s 80 folds to make the star.

The most complicated star I make has 26 folds per point and 8 points. That’s 208 folds to make one window star. 

The other project I’ve been working on for The Summer of Color challenge is a quilt. As I’ve mentioned before, each week I make two quilt squares that feature the color of the week. Each square has seven strips of fabric of varying widths to represent a 7-day week.

Two quilt squares done in 7 different patterns and shades of purple.
Two of the fabrics have “glittery” and “sparkly” elements –
the bonus challenge of the week.

All the fabric I’m using is from what I have on hand. I am committed to not purchasing any new supplies or materials to make the quilt.  I think of all the quilts that my grandma and mom made using fabric that was available. They made do with what they had rather than always purchasing new supplies.

Thought this would be a good time to challenge myself to make do with what I have rather than acquiring new fabric (however much I would enjoy going to a fabric store and picking beautiful material that is all color- and pattern-coordinated).

14 squares done…2 more to go!
Eenie (the cat) watched me lay out the squares.
I know he wanted to jump on them and mess them up.
He was a good cat…he showed some restraint….at least this time.

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “O.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter O … is for Orchestra.

One of the elements of homeschooling for our family is music. Starting at the end of fourth grade, both Sophia and Olivia were/will be given an opportunity to choose an orchestral or band instrument to learn in addition to piano.

They both have a strong interest in orchestral music, so it looks like that is what area they’ll choose. Having an interest in the orchestra most likely stems from attending student performances at the Minnesota Orchestra.

Girls at Minnesota Orchestra
In March 2010, the girls and I attended “Carnival of the Animals”
at the Minnesota Orchestra. In the background,
the orchestra is warming up.
At the Carnival of Animals concert, there were a variety of instruments played – including the harp. This is an instrument that Sophia has become interested in (more information below).
Minnesota Orchestra
The harpist isn’t yet out for warming up,
but there are other musicians practicing before the performance.
Because of Olivia’s vision, we have been able to be seated in either the first or second box seats. This has been such a blessing.

Not only can Olivia see the stage, but the girls become even more engaged in the performance since they can see some of the musicians’ faces and expressions, and how they place the instruments.

Girls at the Minnesota Orchestra
Attending the Percussion Spectacular in October 2009.
The girls are 8 and 6 years old in this picture.
One of the most memorable pieces was played by musicians from the Minnesota Orchestra as well as youth performers. The youth walked down the aisles with their instruments – from the back of the concert hall to the stage. Together, the youth and adults played a piece. Seeing youth perform on stage was quite inspiring for the girls.
Concert at Orchestra Hall
Concert in December 2010 with youth and adult performers
playing together.
Another reason why we enjoy going to the Minnesota Orchestra is that they partner with other non-profit organizations to create multi-disciplinary and multi-art performances. In the December 2010 concert, huge puppets from Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater joined the orchestra on stage to act out one of the songs.  It was a dramatic and moving performance that the girls still vividly remember.
Concert at Orchestra Hall
Actors and musicians doing a piece from Hansel and Gretel.

Sophia and Olivia also have watched orchestral performances on television. One of the historical performances was done by Yo-Yo Ma at President Obama’s inauguration. 
The music was beautiful, and his enthusiasm and smile were contagious. What an inspiration! Both Sophia and Olivia were born in China, so it is wonderful when they can see positive, Chinese-American role models (female or male).
Yo-Yo Ma Playing at the Inauguration
Yo-Yo Ma playing at President Obama’s inauguration
on January 19, 2009.
The girls also have had opportunities to play instruments at different museums and parks which has been fun for them.
Olivia playing a xylophone
Olivia playing a xylophone at the Minnesota History Center.
What is interesting to see is how artists combine music and nature.  At the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum many years ago, there was a wonderful summer exhibit that did just that: combined art with nature.
Playing Acorns and Leaves
The girls with two of their friends playing
leaf and acorn bells.

Seeing handmade instruments created from everyday objects is another creative and inspiring way that the girls have learned about music. Again, at the Minnesota History Center, there was a display of a variety of percussion instruments made from items commonly found in one’s home.
Wrench Xylophone
Sophia playing a xylophone made from wrenches.

After being introduced to a variety of music and the orchestra, the girls each wanted to take piano lessons.
Olivia Playing the Piano
Olivia was interested in learning how to play the piano
long before she took lessons.
Part of learning how to play the piano is participating in the semi-annual concerts (one at Christmas and one at the end of the homeschool year).  Sophia performed at a nursing home for her first concert at Christmas time in December 2010; and her second concert in May 2011.
Sophia at Spring Recital
Sophia at her second concert in May 2011.
Once the girls reach the end of fourth grade, I am asking each one to pick an instrument that they want to learn how to play (in addition to the piano).  Sophia chose the harp in May 2011.

Practicing the Harp
Sophia practicing the harp.

Olivia is interested in the flute and piccolo (on the other end of the spectrum in terms of instrument size).  She still has two full schoolyears to decide if this is her true interest.
Olivia Behind the Strings
When Sophia stepped away from the harp for a moment,
Olivia ran her fingers along the strings.
Listening to the harp is relaxing and calming.
During the summer of fourth grade, Sophia began taking private lessons for harp. She will continue doing this through fifth grade, and then participate in student orchestras in sixth grade.
There are both homeschool and public school orchestras.  Both orchestras have concerts throughout the year which will give Sophia opportunities to perform publically. 
Until then, she shares the gift of music with her grandparents and family.
Playing Music for Grandparents
Above and below: Sophia performing for grandparents,
an uncle and aunt, and family.
Sophia Playing the Harp

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I can’t believe this is already Week 6 of The Summer of Color challenge. This week’s color is red; and I did a couple of things with this color.

First, I made two red window stars. They are made from translucent paper that lets the light shine through so the pattern of the star is revealed. 

Two red origami window stars.

The 8-pointed star with the sharp points is folded 9 times per point. With eight points, it is folded 72 times before it is glued together.

The other star I made is folded 19 times per point. With 8 points, it is folded 152 times before being glued together.

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I also made two quilt squares this week. There are twelve squares now…the quilt is coming along.

Two red quilt squares. Seven different fabrics are used for each square
to represent seven days in the week.

As I mentioned last week, I’m using only fabric that I have on hand for the quilt. I’m not purchasing anything new. It’s definitely one of the most resouceful, “make do” quilts I’ve made. Only four more weeks left – or eight quilt squares – before I’m able to start arranging them and laying out the quilt top. 

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Although the red isn’t as vivid on this little bird as it is on adult robins, it fits the challenge of incorporating something winged into your work (in this case, a quick photo).

I was walking to the garden on Friday afternoon, and a ball of feathers moved on the ground.  A baby robin had fallen from its nest.

Baby robin on the ground.

It was quiet for a while, but very curious and eager to be fed.

When I moved the camera a bit closer,
it opened its mouth slowly to be fed.
After a call to the wildlife rehabilitation center, they said that it would be fine to pick up the bird and put it back in the nest if it had not already flown back up to the nest. Birds have a very weak sense of smell, so there’s not a problem with the mother rejecting the baby.
By the time I went back outside, the baby bird had flown back into the nest. I felt so lucky to have been able to see the young bird at this stage of its life. Normally, the robin nests are so high and well-protected that the young ones are not visible until they are fully-grown.

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