Friday, October 17, 2014

Make Your Own Stretch Strap

After four months of PT and nearly two years of constant pain, I have finally been cleared to exercise again. Well, running is still off the table, but at least I can swim, and walk, and hike, and move around without unbearable pain or the fear of my kneecap popping out of its socket! I am doing a very careful happy dance!

On my second to last day of PT, I was taking a close look at my stretch strap, and realized I could probably make one. The straps don't photograph particularly well, but you can see how they are used with these pictures of people much prettier than me!

Source: OPTP
Source: OPTP
I played around on PowerPoint to sketch out the plan. 

The only thing I needed to buy was the 1" webbing, which I picked up at Joann thanks to a 50% off coupon. I'm pretty short, so I knew I wanted my strap to be slightly shorter than the one I use for PT. I bought 3 yards of webbing. If you are taller, you may want to go with 3.5 yards. 

The first thing I did was fold the webbing so that the two ends met in the center above the middle point, and clip them in place with Clover Wonder Clips. If I had to make a top ten list of sewing supplies, these clips would definitely make the cut. They make binding a quilt so much easier. 

It was a good thing I really examined the strap at PT because I wouldn't have guessed that the loops are not the same size on each side. This is a really the only step that takes a little concentration. I made my loops 6.5" on one side and 6" on the other. So first I measured 6.5" from the middle, where the two ends met, and put a pin in the webbing at the 6.5" mark (or in this case, 6-3/8". I guess I bumped my ruler before taking the photo!).

Then, slide the top part of the webbing over until the pin lined up with the 6" mark. I used a wonder clip to mark the spot. 

Continue making loops until you get to the end of the webbing. Then repeat on the other side. I ended up with eight loops. If you use 4  yards of webbing, you'll end up with more. 

Now the easy part. Simply sew straight lines in the marked sections. I used a double stitch and repeated three times. These seams are secure.

It isn't fancy, but stretch straps are a very inexpensive tool to increase flexibility. Plus, they travel well, which is nice for trips when you may not being moving around as much as your body needs.

On my last day of PT, I compared my strap to the straps at the gym. As I mentioned above, my strap was about a bit smaller. As were my loops. The ones at the gym were probably 7" apart instead of 6". The other thing I noticed is that there was a label over the place where the two ends met. 

Since my meet-up point was a little messy due to me learning that a zig zag stitch didn't work particularly well, I like the idea of covering it up. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to show off a little trick I learned for using up the little pieces of iron on printable fabric.

First, I design a little label, 1" by 2" and printed it.

Now that I knew where on the paper my image would print, I taped my printable fabric to the paper, centering it on the printed image. 

Then print the image again. This time it will print on the fabric. 

You'll definitely want to place a piece of fabric over the label because apparently hot irons and webbing don't play well together, so we'll pretend that my stretch strap still looks this pretty!

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Choice. A Poem in Honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Like (at least) 25% of women, I lost a baby I wanted and loved.

I was 35 when Niels and I married, so we knew we didn't want to wait to start our family. Still, we were surprised to find out we conceived on our honeymoon. A week later, I miscarried. Two months later, I was rushed to the ER when I learned that not only was I pregnant again, but I was also losing that baby, too. I had complications after my second miscarriage and I was crushed, thinking I would never carry a child to full term. Three months later, after many tests and with the help of an OB who both encouraged and cried with me, I conceived again. It was Easter Sunday. I was put on medicine to help my child stay put, but it wasn't until my third ultrasound that I started to believe this baby might be the one God wanted me to raise. 

Last year, for my birthday, my mom wrote a poem that eloquently captures both the sorrow of our loss and our gratitude to God for our son He deemed perfect for us.

The Choice 

 Angel Gertrude had recently been advanced to become the Selector of Babies. Her new position had her finding the perfect match of a new baby to expectant parents. Her first assignment was for a newly married couple who had waited long to find each other, and who were eager to start their family. 

They were honeymooning on a beautiful Caribbean island full of color, fragrant blossoms and exotic cuisine. Gertrude thought she had the perfect active dark-haired boy who was full of the passion and percussion of this island. He would be one to bang out his rhythms on anything and everything. His joy would be his drum set, which he would practice on for hours on end. Every time the couple would hear him, they would be reminded of their wonderful days in the Caribbean. Her pleasure in her choice was soon squelched as God shook His head at her list. 

“He is a delightful boy, but this is a very special couple with unique needs. I think we can do better."  And God welcomed the little soul back to join Him in Heaven. 

Gertrude's brow puckered. She wanted so much to please her beloved God, so she tried again. This time she selected a perky little full of life and activity. She would be one to run and skip all day outdoors, who would stop napping at 9 months, and would be difficult to get to come indoors, and even then would be dancing and running about until the late hours. 

God checked her list again, and slowly shook His head. A lovely girl, but not the perfect choice for this couple. And He blessed the little soul and welcomed her with open arms back to join him in Paradise. 

Now Gertrude was becoming nervous. She loved her new position, and really didn't want to go back to shining halos. She looked at the sad couple below who wanted so desperately to have a child of their own, and she felt so badly that she had not yet given them the perfect match that would please God. 

 She studied the couple, and watched as they sat at their computers for hours on end. She saw the woman wander through bookstores looking and reading the books. She saw them cuddle together on their couch as they watched favorite movies and recorded television programs. She observed their love, their intelligence and their kindness. 

Suddenly, she felt a tug on her gown. She looked down at a little soul with beautiful blue eyes staring up at her. “I want them”, he pleaded. She gazed at him with a thoughtful look. This is a boy who will love to read and collect books. He will cuddle with them to watch his favorite CDs and television shows. His love of trains will have him quietly playing with them for hours at end. He will love his bedroom and his nap times, and will continue to nap into his fourth year. He will love to spend time learning computer skills with his father. 

Gertrude reached down and picked up the little soul. “I think they will be the perfect parents for you, my boy. And as a Christmas gift to God and these parents, I will let you become a part of their lives in the month of His son's birth”. And she made the arrangements. 

As she showed God her choice, He smiled and kissed her gently on her brow. She whispered “All in your good time and wisdom”. And God smiled.

-- Eileen Manthei, January 15, 2013

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Friday, October 10, 2014

September 2014 Projects

I didn't realize when I started doing these monthly recaps that my regular posts would slack off so much. Yikes! And here I thought I'd have more  time when our son started school full time! 

After all the health drama I've been dealing with this month, I am super happy that our family was finally able to participate in a race together. We just did the one mile fun run and we did have fun. We walked a lot and ran a little and I hope it was just the beginning.

Like a lot of little ones, our son is not a fan of bath time, but the protests have greatly decreased since I've enlisted his help to make bath bombs with me. I roughly follow Homespun with Love's boy bath bomb recipe. D likes to help me because the concoction fizzles and chemistry is so fun. 

This last batch was our favorite yet, so I think we'll stick with this blend from now on. 

We continued the chemistry fun by making toilet bombs. These smell really good. And they work great, too!

I didn't do a lot of experimenting with meals this month, but we did make Savory Sweet Life's lemon dill chicken skewers with our CSA dill. They were a big winner! If you want to see the other recipes we've been enjoying with our CSA haul this year, check out my CSA board in Pinterest.

I've been quilting for a year and a half now. Clearly, I'm still a beginner, so I'm still learning a lot with each quilt I complete. I love figuring out patterns and mastering new techniques. I love hexies but haven't yet gotten my courage to try one yet. Here are a few I've been drooling over lately. 
Clockwise from top left: Sew Mama Sew, Oh FranssonElven Garden unknown, 
I've been collecting fabric for an eventual Settlers of Catan.quilt, based on our favorite game. In the meantime, I made a Catan shirt for our little settler, who also loves to play.

I also made D a pair of Viking fleece pants in honor of the start of the football season. Of course, given how our season started, maybe I should have made him a new shirt instead. 

It took me a little while to finish them, but I made five lunch sets for  D. His school doesn't have a cafeteria, so all lunches are packed, as well as his snack. Each set includes a sandwich wrap that unfolds into a placemat, a napkin, and a snack bag. Look for the tutorial on this soon-ish. 

Here's a look at all five sets. The nice thing is that I can fold all three components into the sandwich wrap and put them in his drawer. I used ripstop nylon so they are machine washable too!

We live in Amish country, so we coincided our monthly trip with the Amish Quilt Show. 

It was very, very small, but I still managed to find some new fabric for my stash. Most of the quilts were pretty traditional (no surprise), but this one blew me away. I think the most impressive part of this quilt is that it was the artist's first quilt. Whoa!

The photo I took of the description of the quilt didn't turn out well, but it's pretty incredible. This is Bobbie Bergquist's first quilt! She attended a pain clinic to help with her migraine headaches--something I can relate to well! Her doctor suggested she find a hobby. She decided to make a quilt out of a hooked rug pattern. It's made up of 11,920 one inch squares and took eight months to finish the top! It is hand-tied and measures 10' x 12'. Bobbie says, "This was a healing quilt for me. As we attend quilt shows across the country, we have discovered a wide variety of quilts others have made as (part of their own) healing process."

I was moved by this because I often say that not only has quilting been good therapy for my brain, but it has also been healing for my heart, as it has allowed to me a giver again after so many years of needing other to give their time, energy, money, and resources to help me after my brain injury.

This was a good month for quilting for me.  First of all, I finally finished three quilts for a sibling set. A friend of mine gave birth to twins seven months ago. I wanted to make quilts for the newborns that matched but were slightly different. Then I decided to make another similar quilt for big sister, who is three. 

First, I finished the quilt for baby boy. 

Then for baby girl.

And finally, big sister.

I also finished a new charity quilt. I was pretty flattered when our group asked if we could sell this quilt in a craft sale to raise money for more fabric. Does this make me a pro!?

I'm not quite ready to share another quilt I recently finished, but here's a sneak peak. (Updated: you can read about my wedding-turned-memorial Up quilt here).

I finally started my mom's Western Scrabble quilt. It took me awhile to design it and figure out the best way to do the letters. Now I'm waiting for inspiration for the borders. 

My mom came to visit for a week to enjoy the gorgeous fall weather and apparently, to pass down the Scrabble love to a new generation. Mom and D played many games together this month!

In October, my very loose goals are to:
  1. finish up two more quilts
  2. make a stretch strap
  3. do some much needed declutteing
  4. make a quilt ladder
  5. write posts for 3 projects, including one quilt
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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Quilt #35: Wedding-Turned-Memorial UP quilt

Last summer, I posted about the "UP"-themed wedding gifts I made for my friends, Bob and Erin, in honor of their "UP"-themed engagement and wedding.

Erin and I have been friends since my days in Michigan, where she and I grew closer after my brain injury. When I was dating, Erin would happen to stop by wherever my date and I met up to check up on me. In fact, on the first weekend Niels and I met, Erin joined us at an improv show. During the intermission, she leaned over and asked me what I thought of Niels, because if I didn't want him, she did! That was just the nudge I needed to get over my commitment fears!

Erin and I were alike in our high regard for marriage and high standard for the men we were hoping to marry. Two years ago, Erin met Bob and they quickly fell madly, almost ridiculously, in love.

At the time of their wedding, I had been been quilting for only four months, and had just finished my third simple quilt. I wanted to make them a quilt, but I also wanted to make sure I had a few more quilts under my belt before I made theirs. I gave them the gifts pictured above and promised them a quilt for their first anniversary.

Although I did manage to figure out how to make the quilt I had in mind for them by their first anniverary, when it was done I thought it was better suited for a girl,  So with their permission, I gifted it to a sweet little girl who has being fostered by friends of mine, and promised them a quilt for their second anniversary.

As we talked about what kind of quilt I should make for them, they suggested an "UP" quilt. I was pretty intimidated by the prospect, and mulled it over for months. I started sketching some ideas and collecting fabric and slowly, the UP quilt was moving up in my to-do queue.

Tragically, Bob died of a heart attack on September 20. 

My heart was broken for my friend and I was determined to finished their quilt. 

Fortunately, I had been thinking about this quilt for more than a year so I had the template ready, fabrics collected, and had been learning to applique, I had found inspiration for the background in an eBay quilt, I have made several digital-type quilts, so the idea of making the balloons out of squares appealed to me. 

I used two very similar blue fabric for the background, and five different whites for the clouds.

For the balloon squares, I used twelve different solid colors, plus thirty-one special balloons, many of which held special meaning to Bob and Erin. Bob had teased me, as a Minnesota Viking fan, that he wanted his quilt to have Chicago Bears fabric in it. He got his wish.

The background came together very quickly. I made nine patches out of the squares, taking some care with the balloon squares to makes sure the color placement was random, and then I stitched the whole background together. 

I had wanted to the house to look more true to the the style of the house in the movie. This was by far the hardest part for me because I didn't have a pattern or template to go from, just a blown up image of the house that I had made by layering shapes in PowerPoint.

For the most part, I was still happy with my fabric choices after all these months. 

I used the squares of my nine-patches as an estimate for how large my applique pieces needed to be. I started with the large background pieces. It looked good until I pinned the pieces to the quilt, so I systematically trimmed back all the pieces. 

Not only did I have to see how the sizes worked together, but i also had to play with some of the fabric choices. The original dark green i picked was too green, so I had to swap it out for something lighter.

The dormers were tricky because I had to guess on the angles, and math was never my strong suit in school. Once I was happy with a shape, I re-cut it as a single piece. I was using raw edge applique so I wanted as many seamless joints as possible.

It took two full days, but I finally had everything the way I wanted it.

If anyone would like to try to replicate the house, these are the shapes I cut. Please note that these are the final tweaked sizes and may not look exactly like the in-progress photos.

Yellow (dormers, porch): 
  • One triangle 9.5" wide at the base and 13" tall. The sides should measure 13.75" long.
  • One rectangle 13" x 2"
  • One triangle 4.75" wide at the base and 5" tall. Sides should measure 5.5" long.
  • One rectangle 4.75" x 1". (Note that I re-cut this piece and previous as one piece)
  • Two rectangles 11" x .75" 
  • One rectangle 7" x .75"
  • Four rectangles 2.5" x .5"
Dark Blue (dormers and eaves):
  • One rectangle 10" wide at the base and 14.5" tall. The sides should measure 15.5" long.
  • One rectangle 5" wide at the base and 5.5" tall. The sides should measure 6" long.
  • One rectangle 15.5" x .5"
  • One rectangle 1" x .5"
Light Blue (siding):
  • One rectangle 13.5" x 3"
Pink (siding):
  • One rectangle 13.5" x 10"
Black (roof and windows):
  • One rectangle 26"" x 6.5". Mark a spot on the top of the rectangle that is 22" from the right side. Place one end of your ruler at the 22" mark and one end at the bottom left corner. Cut off the outer left piece. 
  • Four rectangles 2" x 2.75"
  • Four rectangles 1.5" x 1.75"
  • Four rectangles 1" x 1.25"
White (window trim, door trim, ladder-like trim):
  • One rectangle 5.25" x 3.5"
  • Two rectangles 5" x 3.75"
  • Two rectangles 4" x 2.75"
  • Two rectangles 2.5" x 1.75"
  • For the ladder like trim, I bought a ladder shape from Silhouette and stretched to to 13.5"
Purple (porch and windows):
  • One rectangle 13.5" x 2"
  • Two rectangles 4.5" x 3.25"
  • Two rectangles 3.5" x 2.25"
  • Two rectangles 2.25" x 1.5
Dark Green (siding):
  • One square 12" x 12"
Light Green (siding):
  • Two rectangles 12" x 5.5"
Maroon (chimney):
  • One rectangle 5" x 1.75"
  • One rectangle 2" x 1"
Brown (door and steps):
  • One rectangle 5" x 3"
  • One rectangle 3" x 1"
  • One rectangle 4" x 1"
The next order of business was to clean up my cutting table, which looked like this!

One of the reasons I enjoy quilting is that I am always learning something new. I used Heat N Bond, which I love. However, because some parts of the house were four layers of applique thick, it made the quilt a little cardboardy in places. If I were to make another quilt like this, I would use basting spray to place the pieces and then immediately stitch to reinforce each piece. I think it would save time, and make for a more cuddly quilt.

Once all the pieces were prepped, it was time for the scary part: praying that I fused the pieces correctly so I didn't have to repair or replace the background quilt!

I started by layering the pieces that could later go on the quilt as one piece, like the windows on the dormers.

I enlarged the picture of the house so I could carefully place all of the foundational (bottom) pieces of the house.

Then I found matching thread colors to secure these pieces. 

At this point, I'm only confident in raw edge applique, so that's what I did, using a 1/8" seam.

Once the first layer of applique was done, the rest went together pretty easily and I was breathing again!

The next thing I did was add a few notes to a few of the balloons. I learned a cool trick for using up scraps of my label fabric. I designed what I wanted each block to look like, and printed it. I then taped my scraps over the images and re-printed.

I ironed on the dates and phrase, "It's beautiful here," a goose-bumpy nod to a dream a friend had the day after Bob died.

I added a 2" border using the backing fabric, and then a 3" border using the lesser-used blue cloud fabric.

Finally, I added the balloon strings. I quilted them on only the top because the reverse side would have photos and I didn't want all those lines going through my friends' faces. Here is where I most appreciated my new Pfaff because I don't think my entry-model Singer would have done so well, especially because my first attempt with white thread wasn't dark enough and I had to do it again with dark thread. I used Viking purple. I think Bob would have gotten a kick out of that!

At this point, I was starting to believe I could finish the quilt before we left for the funeral! Because the quilt was now a memory quilt, I wanted to add some photos. I used Drintz Sew-On Printable Fabric. I learned my lesson from my Gramma's memory quilt and rinsed off the excess ink immediately after printing the photos. 

The photos were printed at 8" x 10" but were actually a little smaller due to the way the fabric took to the water. It took me a little while to figure out what size I needed the sashing to be. I never realized quilting required so much math! (For the record, I need 3" strips of sashing in the middle and 5.5" sashing on the ends).

My son got a lot of free tech time at the end of the week as I worked feverishly to finish!

Making my quilt sandwich was a little challenging because I needed to line up the photos on the back with the blocks on the front. I taped chopsticks to the center image before securing it to my table.

I started quilting by stitching in the ditch around the photos on the back. Then I turned it over stitched in the ditch around the sky, clouds, and balloons, while avoiding the photo area on the back. I watched the movie, "UP" to spur me on.

I decided to work through the night rather than wake up early and risk not quite finishing. I had this polka dot fabric planned for another quilt, but it tied the colors together so well, I had to use it. Plus, the polka dots reminded me of balloons.

There may be something to this middle-of-the-night work. This was my best binding yet!

At last, it was time for the label. I knew I had to incorporate an image from the movie. I just love this image from Society 6.

And at 4:25am, eight hours before our departure, the quilt was done! Only God could have given me the endurance to create this entire quilt in a week!

We met up with Erin the day before the funeral to deliver the quilt. Such a special moment, and I'm grateful Niels snapped this photo. 

The next day, my waterfall of tears started as soon as I saw that Erin placed the quilt on the steps of the sanctuary. You can tell from this photo that Bob was a fun-loving guy, and I am so grateful to him for all the love and devotion he showered upon my friend. I only wish they could have had more time together.

As we were headed home, Erin sent me this picture.

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