Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Quilt #5: Quilt Along Quilt Complete and Delivered!

Way back in April  I learned of an online quilt-along hosted by Becoming Martha and Create.Craft.Love. At that point, I had made three quilts (which you can see here, here, and here). It was just enough to know that there was a lot I didn't know about quilting! I thought a quilt-along would be a great way to learn how to do things the right way and meet some new friends.

I won't provide a written tutorial here because Jill and Sarah covered that pretty well, but I will instead show my progress along the way, with links to Jill and Sarah's tutorials.

Announcing the Quilt Along
Gathering Supplies

I decided pretty early on that I was going to make this quilt for my niece, Lindsey, who was turning three. It had been more than two years since we had been to the Netherlands, so she didn't remember meeting her Tante Jen. Lindsey's mom told me she loves Hello kitty, animals, and pink, so I took those ideas with me to Joann to pick out fabric.

I came up with these fabrics, which I now I should note the names of, for future reference. Consider that New Thing Learned #1. The star of my fabric selections of course is Hello Kitty. I'm happy I overestimated how much fabric I would need because Joann stopped carrying this style about a week after I bought it!

I used PowerPoint to give me a visual template of what the quilt would look like, even though I would be following the directions from the quilt-along hosts.

For the back of the quilt, I was planning to use one of the pinks until I found this Hello Kitty fabric shower curtain on clearance at Target. (Note my fancy portable craft room to the right).

When I started this quilt, I was still using our dining room as my craft room. Since we eat meals at the dining table every night, I needed to be able to quickly put everything away free from messy 4 yo diners. Thus, my love for Sterilite containers continues.

Cutting Your Fabric

Before this quilt, I had only sewn with squares, which I cut out with square templates. When I started cutting out this quilt, I made a rectangular template.

After I had painstakingly cut out all 84 rectangles, I came across a cutting tutorial on how to squaring fabric, and using the rotary cutter to cut in strips to make more uniform pieces. I saved that info for my next quilt and made life much easier. Lesson #2: Cut pieces with the fewest number of cuts for a higher rate of accuracy.

This method really would have come in handy for the long sashes, which were a bear to cut.

Piecing the Quilt

The first part of the pieces went pretty smoothly. With the slim strips, I didn't even have to pin.

Lesson #3: Pressing the seams open makes a big difference in the way the fabric lays. This is really helpful when you are attaching twenty-three strips!

Because I didn't follow lesson #1, my rows were a little crooked. I found that by piecing it in smaller groups of 7-8 strips, I was able to straighten it out a bit. 

This was my first quilt with sashing and borders.  

It took me a long time to finish this quilt because we had a two week trip to Florida for Niels' work right in the middle of the quilt-along, Marissa leaving, and--as you can see--I started to convert Marissa's room into my craft room.

I had another delay when I learned that a friend of mine had a stroke. I whipped up quilt #4--look to the left on the photo below for a sneak peek--to snuggle up with during her recovery. 

Finally, as we started counting down the days to our trip to the Netherlands, I kicked into high gear and completed the quilt top! 

Quilting the Quilt

This was the first time I actually quilted a quilt. Two of my previous quilts were rag quilts (Thomas the Train and Monogram Minky). The third quilt I just made my own way, which was a lot more complicated than it needed to be! A big incentive for me in joining the quilt-along was learning how things are supposed to be done. Of course, that didn't stop me from veering a little off course, but at least I learned some good fundamentals. Lesson #4 was the entire process of quilting.

For the back, I knew I wanted to use the shower curtain to make it reversible, but until the front was pieced together, I didn't know much adjusting needed to be done.  As it turned out, the quilt was much longer and slightly narrower than the shower curtain. 

I added about a foot of pink fabric used on the quilt front to the top and bottom of the shower curtain, which I centered the quilt. Then I sewed the sides together and trimmed the excess.

Once everything was flush, I flipped the shower curtain back side so that the wrong side was facing up.

After smoothing it out as much as I could, I used t-pins to secure them to our carpeting.

Next I put down the batting and smoothed it out. I bought queen size because that's what the directions called for, so I had a lot left over that I trimmed loosely away. I used t-pins to secure the batting to the carpet.

Finally, I put the quilt top down, face up, on top of the back and batting, and made another round with thet-pins. That baby wasn't moving!

Next, I put a curved safety pin to baste, or attach the layers, in each rectangular and every 8" or so around the border. I learned that curved safety pins are easier to handle than curved, and that the Dritz brand was easier to work with than the Singer. I think the former were sharper because they went through the three layers of material easier.

Once all the safety pins were in--all 80 of them!--I rolled up the quilt from short ends to the middle. I learned that it's good to start quilting (stitching all three layers together) from the middle and working out. Between that and the pins, the fabric is less likely to move around. 

I bought myself a walking food because I was told by the sweet quilting ladies I hope to hang out with in the fall that it pushes the fabric a little better so the layers don't catch. I used the "stitch in the ditch" method of quilting where I just followed the lines on the top of my quilt.  

I liked the way it looked on the back when I was done. I found this part to be quite relaxing. I just put a couple movies on my iPad and stitched along. It took just over two movies to quilt the whole thing. A lot of people send out larger quilts to be quilted by professions with big long arm machines and fun designs, but I wanted to learn this part of the process so I'm glad I did it. 

When I was happy with my lines, I took out all the safety pins.

Binding the Quilt

Binding a quilt was a new experience for me as well (big ol' lesson #5). The first step was to trim off the excess backing and batting. I was a little nervous about this because I didn't want to accidentally cut too much and then have to throw myself into fetal position and have a good cry. Fortunately, it was a fairly painless process.

It was at this stage that I learned about the importance of squaring of my fabric before cutting it. This is not something I will forget again.

Like quilting, there is an easier way to bind a quilt. Apparently you can buy pre-made binding. I did not know this, and, in the interest in learning to do each step myself, I got lots of practice cutting strips. 

 I sewed each piece together to make one continuous strip.

I spent some quality time with my iron, pressing all the seams and trimming off all the little notches.

Then I folded the first part of the strip over, and started pressing the entire long strip in half.

It took a LONG time, but I ended up with this pretty roll of binding.

Next I pinned the binding to the back side of the quilt.

And tucked the end into the beginning, like this.

Then I sewed the binding, attaching the start to the end.

Finally, I flipped the binding over to the other side, pinned and sewed again. (Here you also get a sneak peak at my stained craft table top, which I did myself. But that's a topic for another post).

At long last, my quilt is done done done ditty DONE!

One last final touch.

And I even had time to whip up a matching pillowcase/travel bag.

Quilt Reveals!

When you click on the link above, you'll see Jill's dino quilt reveal with links for other quilt-alongers big reveals.

My big reveal took place in the Netherlands, when I presented this quilt to Lindsey and her mom. Well, Lindsey was less excited about the reveal.

But very excited about how fun it was to play peek-a-boo with it. 

The happy recipient. 

Paid in full.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Our Sixth Anniversary!

Today is our sixth anniversary! Time sure flies when you're having fun! I spent some time this morning looking through photos (and if you know me in real life, you know I take a lot of pictures!) as a way of remembering everything our life together has brought us so far. (Those of you who are new to the blog may not know that I live with a brain injury, so photos become my memory of an event. After about three months, my ability to recall events without photos is greatly diminished).

When Niels and I got married, I promised to keep things interesting, and our life together has certainly been anything but dull! In addition to my ongoing health issues, we've weathered two miscarriages, a very difficult pregnancy and delivery, the loss of our dog, the humbling and excruciatingly slow process of applying for disability, and the process of selling our old house in a rotten market. While none of those events were pleasant, they did draw us closer as a couple, and made me eternally grateful to God for providing the husband I prayed for all those lonely thirty-five years. Niels was definitely worth the wait!

While every marriage has its struggles, I can't help but smile when I think of how abundantly blessed we have been over the last six years. In no particular order, my top six favorite events of our marriage are:

1. The Last Night of our Honeymoon

Niels and I honeymooned in Curacao, a tiny Dutch island in the Southern Caribbean that looks like any tropical island on one side, and Arizona on the other. We worshipped with other islanders at a church that met in the movie theater in a service that included three languages. We paid respect to the Africans our cultures (Dutch and American) enslaved by visiting the Kura Hulanda slave museum. (Unfortunately, Curacao was used by the Dutch as a key port in the slave trade). And of course, we enjoyed gorgeous beaches. 

The highlight though, was the last night, when we sat on beach chairs with our toes in the water, looking out at a storm in Venezuela. There was something beautiful about that moment. Sitting in absolute paradise, watching the storm ahead. 

2. Alaskan Cruise.
After our second miscarriage, I was pretty down. Our due date was in August of 2008 and I begged Niels to give me something to look forward to that summer. We decided on an Alaskan cruise. As it turned out, by August, I was 20some weeks pregnant with our son. I had had a pretty rough pregnancy, hooked up to Zofran pump for several weeks to keep my nausea in check (Happy Brown House wrote about the pump I used), plus a pretty intense headache that I couldn't treat with my regular injections. But for one glorious week, I felt almost like the glowing mom-to-be I dreamed to be as Niels and I explored the beautiful state of Alaska. (Within days of returning, I was put on bedrest for the rest of my pregnancy!)

3. Being Parents to D

It's nearly impossible to describe how wonderful it has been to be D's mom. Our little boy blows me away with his curiosity and intelligence. (I often say that I know more than he does, but he is way smarter than me!). He loves all things space, Legos, trains, and books. He's very sweet and loving, especially when I'm sick. I love this sweet spot of being his best friend. 

4. Building our House

When we began the process of  building our house, we were warned that it could cause a lot of friction in a marriage. For us, it was confirmation of how similar our priority and goals really are. When we were building our house, we were less concerned about trends, and more concerned about building a house that would meet our needs both now and in the distant future. We had a lot of fun dreaming about what our life would look like when our then-two-year-old is more social, when he is in school and I was home alone all day, when D is a teen, when we were empty nesters, when we become grandparents, and realistically, if something happens to either one of us and mobility becomes an issues. We took all those dreams into consideration as we designed our dream house. 

We spent our fourth anniversary at the house, writing Bible verses on the ICF blocks. Not quite as easy as writing on wood, but we love knowing that those life-giving words surrounds us even to the foundation of our house. 

5. Being Marissa's American Parents

One of the goals we talked about even before we were married was to host an exchange student. It was almost a year ago that we were matched with Marissa, our Dutch daughter.

I admit I was a little nervous about being responsible for a teenage girl for ten months, especially in a new house, but it was a wonderful, wonderful experience. So much so that we're now afraid to do it again because we can't imagine anyone being a better fit for our family than Marissa was. She truly became our daughter, and since she lives in the Netherlands, we are able to see her whenever we are there to visit Niels' family. 

6. Seeing the World Together

Niels and I see ourselves as residents of the United States and citizens of the world. As parents, we want our son to appreciate the diversity of our world, and as much as we are able, we desire to travel to see the world for ourselves. In the past six years, we have been all over the States, and to Canada, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, Italy and Curacao. 

Six years down, a lifetime to go! 

And now, and anniversary gift to you, our readers! I made this printable with the verse we used at our wedding. Right click to save to your computer and print it out. Of course, this permission is for private use only. 

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