Saturday, November 29, 2014

Astronomical Quilt Block Revisited

Several months ago, I wrote about a block I made for the the Astronical Quilt Block Challenge. It was really fun to combine my love of quilting with my son's love of space.

When we made plans to take our son on a tour of NASA facilities this year, my only request was that we timed it to be in Houston for the International Quilt Festival, the world's largest quilting event. It was on my bucket to go someday, but with the NASA quilt blocks on display, I really wanted to go this year!

I also figured that it would be easier to get the boys to spend the day with me when they had things like this NASA display. 

Our first pleasant surprise happened when we learned that astronaut Karen Nyberg, who came up with the idea of the challenge, was going to be attending the festival the same day as us! We had a few hours before Karen's talk, but we couldn't help but start with the block exhibit. About a month before the deadline, I read an article stating that over 600 blocks had been submitted. Imagine our surprise when we learned that over 2,200 came in! Rather than seeing one big quilt, as we expected, a team of quilters put together 28 panels of blocks! There were also five albums of blocks that were either late or the wrong size, but still on display. 

I was wondering how long it was going to take to find my block, when my eagle-eyed hubby alerted me to surprise #2: my block was on the same panel as Karen's!

Karen's block--the one she made while she was on the ISS--is the red, white and blue one on the bottom.

What is especially fun about the placement of my block is that it is easy to spot on all the different photo ops with Karen, like this one:

Source: NASA
Then came surprise #3. As we were admiring our panel, a woman nudged me and quietly said, "You know, Karen is here." To which I replied, "Yes, I know! My 5-year-old son loves NASA and we are so happy that we were able to come on the same day she is speaking." The woman smiled at me and said, "No, I mean she's here right now, over there." I looked over there and saw Karen standing with another person from NASA. I pointed her out to my son, and he immediately ran over to her saying, "Miss Nyberg! Miss Nyberg! Excuse me! Miss Nyberg!"

She looked over and smiled at our son. He introduced himself and asked if he could show her our block. When she said yes, he took her hand and they walked over to our panel. 

After chatting about his dreams of being a rocket scientist, others noticed Karen and we moved on to admire the other blocks. 

One block I was happy to find was that of my new blogger friend, Sarah from

I wish I had thought to take full photos of all the panels, but fortunately, Cindy Campbell did. I took a ton of pictures of my favorite blocks, which can be seen, along with other photos from the show, on my Facebook page.

Edited 10/18/18.
I was looking for a pattern and was led to a blog by Valerija Mezhybovska, who shared this picture of Karen, surrounded by some of the star blocks. Valerija's block is in the top left corner. Mine is directly under hers! So cool!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

October 2014 Recap

The theme of this month for our family has been travel! The month started with a trip to Michigan for a funeral and ended with an amazing family road trip that included stops at four NASA facilities and a day at the International Quilt Festival. (You can see my pictures on my FB album).

Speaking of quilts, I only had one finish this month, but it was a big one! A few months after I first touched a sewing machine, one of my very good friends, Erin, married her love, Bob. I promised her and new husband a quilt, but said they probably would get it until their first anniversary. I would have made that deadline, had my original design not turned out a little girly. As it turned out, it was perfect for a little girl I knew, and they graciously agreed me to gift their quilt to someone else. Because the movie "UP" was such big part of their engagement and wedding, they asked if I might make them an UP-themed quilt. I thought about it for months, trying to figure out how to make the balloons and colorful house. Then, on October 26, the unthinkable happened, Bob died of a heart attack. They were only married for 15 months. I worked nearly all my waking hours--and there were a lot of them--for a week to finish their quilt in time for Bob's funeral. I learned a lot about applique and got bit by the art quilt bug. Most importantly, I was able to wrap my gift around my friend in person.

When we got back from the funeral, I took a week to catch up on sleep and life. I stared at my Mom's Western Scrabble quilt and found lots of ways that did not work to finish the top. I really wanted to incorporate photos into the design, but the fabrics and photos clashed too much, so I finally (in November) gave up and found another option for the borders. Hopefully I can show off the finished project in my November recap.

The only other sewing I did was the ten minutes I spend making a stretch strap. On my penultimate day of physical therapy, I was looking at the stretch strap and figured I could make one to use at home. I made a few mental notes and whipped up my short-girl's version. On my last day of PT, I checked mine against the real thing and was happy with what I came up with. I've been putting it to good use ever since!

In a different kind of art, my son's kindergarten photos came in, so I was able to update his growing up gallery. 

October can be a difficult month for a lot of parents. On October 15, we, along with other parents who lost a child too soon, noted Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This year I posted a poem my mom wrote for me in honor of our three children, two in heaven, and the one we get to raise.

One of the highlights of our two road trips this month was meeting four of the fellow December 2008 mamas. There is a group of us who "met" online six years ago when we were all expecting. These amazing women have been a lifeline to me as I have learned to navigate the waters of parenthood. We are vastly different in our beliefs, opinions, and values, but we all love our children and support each other through each milestone. One of the greatest benefits of driving, rather than flying, to our destination, is the opportunity to meet up these wonderful woman and their kiddos. 

In fact, we were super social this fall with playdates, fall happenings, meeting new friends, and reconnecting with long time friends.
Between our first trip and our second trip, we spent some time enjoying the beauty of Ohio in the fall.

I worked on a few projects this month. The big one was finding a solution for displaying quilts in our great room.

I also made some homemade vaporub using Wellness Mama's recipe. We've put it to good use in November as we've been battling colds and allergies.

Finally, something big happened this month: Niels voted for first time as an American!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ikea Quilt Ladder

Even before I started quilting, I have loved the feeling of something cozy on my legs when I am sitting down. Whether reading, watching TV, working on my computer, or snuggling with my boys, I just love to have that extra layer covering me. 

Of course, once I started quilting, I wanted to be able to enjoy my quilts, whether they were on my lap or not. I have been looking for display ideas for quite awhile.

If you've been following me for awhile, you may have seen the quilt display I have in my craft room

 It's just right for displaying quilts for photos, but not so convenient to hang quilts ready to use. So, I was off to the internet for inspiration. You can see all the ideas I found on my Pinterest board, but here are few of my favorites:

Molly from The Nesting Game repurposed the railing from her front porch into a metal quilt ladder.

I really like the look this extra wide wood and copper quilt rack by Debbie at Ideal Stitches. (Click the link to see what it looks like filled with quilts!)

Woodworks by Brooks sells this swinging arm quilt holder that reminds me a larger, wood version of the IKEA Gruntal towel holders that I use in several places in my house.

Speaking of IKEA, we were in visiting out not-quite-neighborhood IKEA (two hours away), when I saw the IVAR side unit.

It comes in several sizes, starting at 12" x 49" (with 3 rungs) for $8, and going all the way up to 20" x 89" (which 5 rungs) for $20, which is what we bought.

It's only available in untreated solid pine, so it cost a little bit more (under $4) for a can of spray paint to get the white glossy look I wanted.

The large size is just right for our tall great room. The quilts I have on it now have all been made by friends and family. I keep giving the ones I make away! 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Growing Up Gallery: Updated!

One of my most popular pins (thank you, Pinterest and Craftaholics Anonymous!) is the growing up gallery we put up shortly after moving into our new house.

I wanted to add a quick update to show that I'm still loving this idea, and this gallery is one of favorites. I pass it several times a day because it is just outside my craft room. Our son's kindergarten picture recently arrived and was added to the gallery. It's actually the second photo we've added since putting up the gallery. The gallery is now halfway filled (sniff!)

What has happened to my baby!?!

How do you display school photos?

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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