Thursday, August 25, 2016

Quilt #66: Ang & Sergio's Trinity Celtic Knot


The story of this quilt began sixteen year ago. It was 2000. I was 28, single, and new to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I loved my new job in the marketing department of a Christian publisher, but was lonely and praying for friends. I found a singles group through a local church and decided to attend the spring retreat.


Turns out, there were four other women praying for friends, and by the end of the weekend, I had my new forever friends. We based our friendship on Hebrews 12:1.


Over the past sixteen years, we have shared our lives together as we navigated moves across state lines and national borders, boys who broke our hearts and men who became ours husbands,jobs that taxed our minds and babes who stole hearts, weight losses and gains, brain injuries and other health issues, and ages that moved from 20s to 30s to 40s. Despite our differences and differences of opinion, we have found a way to stay close through it all, and even still gather together every year or
so.


On July 29, 2007, I married Niels, leaving Ang the last one of  us to meet her match. As much as she wanted to be married, she didn't sit around waiting. She is an OB-GYN who loves babies and helping mamas deliver their little ones. Her dad passed away about a decade ago, so she gathered up her mom and sisters, who both live with Downs, and settled them close to her practice.  


About eight years ago, her heart still longed for a family of her own. She prayerfully made plans to be a foster mom. Shortly after being approved, a sweet little girl was placed in her home and in her heart. She adopted that girl. And a few years later, she adopted her biological brother, bring him home shortly after delivering him. 

Ang's life was pretty busy with her family and practice. She came to a peace about marriage. If it was meant to be, then God would bring the right guy, who would be willing to take on her whole family with open arms. And if he could be tall, that would be really nice, because Ang is very tall. So she was content but open as she went on with her life until one day a woman at church asked if she could introduce her to her widowed dad. And the rest, as they say, is history. 



When Ang and Sergio got engaged, I knew I would make her a quilt, a big king-size one because she has the biggest heart of anyone I know. The way she cares and sacrifices for her family, her friends, her patients, and the babies she delivers is such an inspiration to me. I’m not always great with telling people how I feel about them, and since my brain injury, my words don’t always convey my heart. So now I speak through fabric!


In March, we COWs threw Ang a surprised wedding shower on the weekend we met to meet her Sergio. I knew I would be making her a quilt, so I needed ideas! I tried to pepper her with questions, but the only leads I had as we were driving home was "blue" (the color they planned to paint their bedroom) and "braid" because another important verse to each of us as we have hoped and prayed and waited to meet our spouses has been Ecclesiastes 4:12.

Credit: Robin Dance
When I found Deborah Cohen's Trinity Celtic Knot, I knew I found the perfect pattern because as much as we have all loved the imagery of a braid for marriage, the symbolism is even more powerful for Ang as she brings not only her own life, but also that of Sergio's family, her mom, sweet sisters, and her own children in the beauty of new everyday life. Many parts coming together in one beautiful family.


Because this is not my pattern, I won't share too much of the process. I did map out the squares in Excel because my brain sees patterns better than way. Even still, I made a couple mistakes along the way. 

Because there are so.many.squares (2025 to be exact!), this was the perfect project to use Elizabeth Hartman's method of using lightweight fusible interfacing to sew squares. She admits that she's not the only one who has discovered this method, but I used her method to start and gradually modified to make it work for me. First I made a template with freezer paper.


But later on, I just drew my template on each cut of interfacing because my freezer paper got pretty wrinkled after a few uses. I'm totally sold on this method for square block quilts. It took me an average of an hour per block, and these are big block. To compare, I'm working on a much smaller charity quilt with squares I've pieced the standard way, and it took me a full day to make two blocks. I will be finishing that quilt next...with this method!


Each print I chose has metallic silver in it. It's a reference to part of Malachi 3:3, "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." My favorite book on marriage is Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. The subtitle is "What if the purpose of marriage is to make us holy, more than to make us happy?" The silver in the quilt are reminders of both the illustration of the silversmith who holds the precious metal over intense heat and Gary's book about how marriage uses each spouse's imperfections to draw them closer to God.
Source with story.
Because I used the postage stamp method to make this quilt. I found that the process was quicker when I cut strips as I needed them and cut them to different sizes I needed (2.5" x 2.5", 2.5" x 5", etc.) Whenever I saw that I was getting low, I would cut a few more strips. 


Because I modified the center to applique the couple's name, I ended up 49 blocks of varying sizes. I found my highlighter to be a essential in keeping track of each block. Even still I made errors of 4 of the blocks, 3 of which I noticed before I finished binding. More on that in a minute...


One of the biggest challenges with a quilt this size--102" x 102"!--is finding a design wall big enough. My sweet hubby took down the full size batting I had been using for a design wall in our laundry room, and put up the king size batting.


Overall, this worked out really well, except for the fact that our laundry room is narrow, and therefore, I could never get a photo of the entire quilt at once. Does anyone else find that mistakes and patterns are easier to see with a photo over real life? This photo will give a hint on which block I messed up.


The last block I made was the appliqued center block. Even after 66 quilts, I rarely tell someone I'm making a quilt until I'm nearly done in case I decide I can't finish it for some reason. It's become a bit of a game for some of my friends to guess the recipient of my quilts. One of my very favorite things is when someone realizes it's for them. The font is Beyond the Mountains


Because of the interfacing and size of the quilt blocks, this turned into a very heavy quilt. I nicknamed it The Beast as I was piecing the blocks and quilting it on my domestic machine, but I love a heavy quilt to snuggle and sleep with at night.


I sewed the blocks into rows and hung them on my IKEA Gruntal towel bars as I worked. 


Once I had all the rows pieced together, I could finally get my first look at the whole quilt together with the quilt display in my craft room. A new lesson for me after making this quilt is to take photos from both sides of the craft table. 


The quilt hung for a few days while I figured out the borders. I had a bit of a heart attack when I thought I was short on the white fabric and in was no longer available at Joann. Fortunately, my hoarding fabric stash came through for me and I found an extra yard in another project box. Niels thought the quilt looked even more impressive from the back, so he took this picture. That's when I figured out that the quilt is made up of 2,025 little squares!


This is the second king size quilt I've made. (I've also made 3 queens). After the last one, I said "Never Again!" But Ang is special to me, so I made an exception. When I put it on our king bed to get a look, I realized I will probably make at leas one more.


For this quilt, I had bought a wide back with blue tumbling blocks, but when it arrived, the colors weren't quite right. Instead I found this one at Joann and bought 3 lengths to sew together for the back. 


And this is why big quilts get called beasts. I like the clean look of straight line quilting. Plus it's much easier to navigate. But straight lines didn't work with this design so I got quite a work out pulling the quilt through my Pfaff. 


After many hours of tugging the quilt through the throat space, I had the idea to use some baby links to roll up the sides. I used about 7 on each side. They worked pretty well, although I did have to reset them a few times when I was making diagonal stitches. 


I made the label by designing it in PowerPoint and printing it on printable fabric


I finished the binding the night before we left for the wedding. After 100 hours, I lost track of how many hours it took to make this quilt, but I started it on July 25, and finished on August 18. We had two students from Taiwan staying with us before moving into their apartment at the University of Akron, so I recruited them to hold up the quilt for a photo at the McKinley Monument. 


There is an adage in the quilting community that says, “Finished is better than perfect.” It is the mantra that carries us through when a quilt challenges us. The more we quilt, the more our eyes are trained to look for imperfections. It’s how we improve our craft. However, in our desire for an error-free project, we can deny ourselves the satisfaction of admiring the beautiful art we have created. The Amish are said to make a purposeful mistake in every quilt as a reminder that only God is perfect. But still, my heart sank when I looked at the photo above and saw what is, to me, a glaring mistake. 


The perfectionist in me is still irked that I made the mistake. The artist and friend in me sees the lesson in a wedding quilt with an imperfection. As I wrote to Angela and Sergio, "I hope it will serve as a reminder that despite our imperfections, which others may or not even notice, we are each beautiful.


One of the best pieces of advice Niels and I received about marriage is to always see our problems as being “us” against the problem, and not me v. him. As an extension, you can choose to look for the good in each other or nitpick each other’s shortcomings. I hope you look for the beauty in the whole of this quilt, and of the marriage you create together with both the good and not-so-good you each bring into it."


Congrats Angela & Sergio! I hope you two lovebirds enjoy many, many happy years together. And as for my girls, I'm looking forward to our Spring getaway!


Linked to:
Creativity Unleashed @ Practically Functional
Design Wall Monday @ Patchwork Times
Made by You Monday @ Skip to My Lou
Oh Scrap! @ Quilting is More Fun that Housework
Show Off Saturday @ Sew Can She
Whoop Whoop Friday @ Confessions of a Fabric Addict

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Quilt #65: Gioia's French Roses


Living with a brain injury and moving to a new state in this cocooning age of social media does not make building friendships an easy task. Niels and I had a very challenging first year. We were ridiculously in love, but life was hard. I got pregnant on our honeymoon. We lost that baby. We got pregnant the following month. We lost that baby and the recovery was very painful physically and emotionally. I married at 35 and was fearful that among all the things the brain injury stole from me, it was also stealing my opportunity for motherhood. Three months after our second miscarriage, I became pregnant again. I was violently ill with hyperemesis gravidarum and a severe headache for months. I was on bedrest for more than half of my pregnancy. During those long days, I found other expectant moms on a fertility website. We bonded as we shared our paths to pregnancy, we crowdsourced opinions on everything from feed out babies, decorating our nurseries, picking out car seats, picking out names. and everything else under the sun. Our views and opinions are all over the spectrum, but our group was free of the drama that so easily overtakes such groups. In short, by the time our December 08 babes were born, we had given birth to deep friendships.

Our little babies are now seven and a half. Our group has migrated to a private Facebook group and we continue to discuss all manner of topics together. We have weathered the loss of spouses, divorce, re-marriage, health scares, international moves, and more babies. 

One of the friends I made is Davinder. I connected with Davinder because we both have international families. When I learned that she was expecting, I knew I wanted to make her baby a quilt. As she prepared to meet her little girl, she mentioned wanting to create a shabby chic nursery. One day she posted about some Tanya Whelen fabrics she loved for curtains in the nursery. 


I wasn't ready to start her quilt yet, but I ordered several of the fabrics she mentioned so that I could stare them into inspiration.

I came across Heather French's French Roses pattern and knew it was just what I wanted to make. I like how the raw-edge applique frays with washing to make the roses pop.


There are lots of examples and variations of the pattern on Pinterest. 


But the one I like the most was this one from Etsy seller My Red Door Designs with roses alternating with nine patches.


I didn't buy the pattern because I love to reverse engineer patterns, so I'm not going to provide directions. If you like to follow directions, please buy the pattern

That said, here are a few photos of the process. First, I made my nine patches.


I played around with the roses for quite a while until I decide which fabric I wanted to use for the backgrounds, and how many prints I wanted in each rose. I decided on the polka dot backgrounds in pink, green, and blue. I alternated between the background print and one other print in a different color for each rose.


I stitched 1/4" around the each level of the roses and swirled my stitching in the center bloom.


My favorite picture from this process is this one of my son, who came into watch as I finished the binding. 


Before Davinder mentioned the Tanya Whelen fabric she liked, I had pulled out this Michael Miller fabric that I had picked up at a sale two summers ago. I was driving my car when I saw an older man setting up a garage sale by himself. I noticed a lot of quilting supplies, so I pulled in. We got to talking, and he shared with me that his wife had just passed away. She was a longtime quilter and he was selling the things from her craft room. We both had tears as he told me about her. He invited me to shop while I was there (the sale was started the next day) and as he saw how much I appreciated her things, he generously added more goodies to my bags.  This fabric was my favorite and I have been waiting for the right project. This was it. I thought of my benefactor often as I worked, remembering his loss as I used his wife's fabric to celebrate a new life.


I washed the quilt before putting on the label. I love the way the roses have frayed. The quilt is very soft and cozy. 


I made a matching taggy blanket out of scraps. 


Here you can see the difference between the pre-wash (right) and first wash (left). 


A few last shots before sending my gift and love to Canada. 




Linked to:


Monday, July 25, 2016

Thank You Blue

Ever since our son was little, when we saw a first responder on the road or responding to a call, we would take a moment to prayer for the situation: that the first responder would know just what to do, that he or she would be safe, that the offender would accept responsibility for their choices, that victims would full recover, that families would find peace.


This has been a hard summer for our first responders, particularly our law enforcement officers. Our son is only seven, yet we have had many conversations about how, in general, police officers are helpers. If he is in trouble, if he ever gets separated from us, he is to either find woman with children, or a police office to ask for help. (We direct him to the mom first because people can impersonate police officers. They are less likely to pretend to be a mom of young kids or fun aunt). Our city puts on Safety City for incoming kindergartners where they meet first responders from the community and learn how to be safe and ask for help. I want my son to trust the people called to serve and help.


Increasingly though, we are seeing more examples of people in helping professions cause harm. Police officers are not alone in this. We hear about teachers, pastors, doctors and others abusing those who believe they are safe with them due to their job title. We tell our son that some police officers make bad choice, but not all of them, and not enough you should show respect to someone in uniform or expect that they will be more helpful than not. We don't pull our son out of school because a few teachers take advantage of their student's innocence. We don't skip church because some pastors betray the trust of those they are called to shepherd. We don't avoid the doctor because sometimes doctors harm when they are meant to heal.


One of our family rules is that we choose to define others by their best moments, not their worst. We choose to do the same thing with those in the helping professions. We think it's important to support the vast majority of first responders who do their difficult jobs well, who risk their lives in ways we don't know or understand, all for our benefit and safety.


As we kicked off 2016, I wrote that instead of focusing on a word, I choose a phrase, "Do what you can, where you can, when you can." As a parent, it means we have looked for ways to serve those around us. As a quilter and sewist, I have looked for opportunity to comfort, celebrate, and support others through my craft.

Last week, D and I decided that our local sheriff's office needed some donuts. I made him a special shirt and he made a card. We pooled our money and had our local Dunkin Donuts make some special donuts for our men and women in blue. 


I recently made a quilt as part of Quilts For Pulse. I am proud to be a quilter, part of a community that is incredibly generous as a whole. It was very encouraging to see people from around the world send in the heart blocks and quilts to the Orlando Modern Quilt Guild to be distributed to victims' families, survivors, and first responders who helped on the night o the Pulse shooting. 

And now the Dallas Modern Quilt Guild has put out a call for blue heart blocks for the families of the fallen officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. I hate that we continue to have these needs, but I am happy to take a little time send my love in fabric form.


The call is for blue hearts with a white background. I started off with a 10.5" unfinished block using this tutorial from Cluck Cluck Sew.


But I wanted to do something reminiscent of the blue line used to show support for law enforcement officers.Since my heart was blue, I reversed the colors.

First I cut my block .75" from the bottom of the small HSTs, and .75" above the large HSTs. 


I cut strips of black fabric 10.5" x 2.75". 


I attached the top and bottom to get a blue heart with black stripe. 


Our neighbor is a police officer and was kind enough to give me some patches attach to the first four blocks I made. 


I thought I was done, but then I remembered I had some dark navy blue fabric that is nearly black and just had to make four more that more closely looked like the traditional blue line colors. 

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