Monday, November 7, 2016

Quilt #69: It Is Well

A million years ago when I was single and before I broke my brain, I lived in Michigan and worked at Family Christian Stores. It was my favorite job. I interviewed authors and artists, went to lots of free concerts, traveled to Nashville often, and wrote lots and lots of copy. I had great co-workers, too, which made my job a place I liked to be each day. During this season of my life, I was writing my first book, the late great Generation Ex. One of my colleagues was especially supportive as I wrote about the long-term effects of parental divorce.

Photo Credit: Chris Clark
Steve Johnson became my Michigan dad. I started calling him Papa Steve, and others who shared my admiration of his integrity, compassion, solid work ethic, and terrible puns also started using his new moniker. He provided endless wise counsel as I  needed help with my car, bought my first house, and untangled the branches of my complicated family bush. Steve loves cars, coffee, gospel music (especially hymns), serving, and his family. How he loves his family! He and his wife, Bev, are such a model of enduring marriage, and you can only know Steve a few minutes before his love for his wife becomes apparent.

In 2007, I moved to Ohio to begin my married life, and as frequently happens, our every day friends become friends we think of fondly as their name scrolls across our Facebook feed. Like many of his generation, Steve doesn't post a lot on Facebook. In fact, it was a mutual friend who posted about a sort of pre-funeral that was held for Steve. A what?! Friends and family gathered to tell Steve what he means to them. They just couldn't wait for him to die. And what instigated this celebration of Steve's life?

In June of 2015, Steve was diagnosed with stage 4 adenocarcinoma. He has cancer in his right lung. And his brain. And his liver. And his bones. It's been sixteen months since he was diagnosed, but Steve is still here. He hardly posts about himself on Facebook. But almost every day he posts lyrics from his favorite hymns.

I'm glad Steve is kicking cancer's backside for many reasons, but selfishly, I am grateful because it means I was able to make him a quilt.

The original inspiration for Steve's quilt is this one by Melissa of All Buttoned Up. It's called The Proverbial Quilt, which is just the kind of pun that makes me think of Steve.

When I thought of what words I would put on a quilt for Steve, I knew it had to be a hymn. The first one I thought of was "It Is Well With My Soul" by Horatio Spafford. If you don't know the story behind the song, take a moment to read it. Mr. Spafford and his wife endured unspeakable tragedy, first losing a son and most of his material wealth in the Great Chicago Fire. Then, two years later, he lost all four of his daughters when the ship they were sailing with their mother sank. When he sailed by the spot himself en route to his grieving wife, he was inspired to write this hymn.

I went through a lot of iterations from there. From mostly words to words on water. Then adding a cross, then a sunset, before landing on the (mostly) final design. So really, it's not at all like the quilt that inspired me. Go figure.

I started with the paper-pieced words because that was the part I was most afraid of messing up. I bought the Wonky Alphabet  pattern from Kelby Sews. I love the fun font she created.

It always takes me a little bit to get back into the swing of paper-piecing. I'm guaranteed to mess up at least a few things as I will sew wrong sides together.  When I finished the first three "well," I felt like the quilt was being a little snarky and that made me giggle. 

I modified a few of the letters so they were all capitalized. I also made a last minute fabric change for the water blocks and I am glad I did.

Once the letters were done, the bottom half of the quilt came together quickly. I swapped a couple colors to make the reflection of the cross. 

I started the sunset half with the cross and made blocks moving out from it.

Once I got to the purples, it took a few tries to settle on the right purples.

I wasn't completely sold on the last purple, but couldn't resist a purple batik with crosses.

I'm stepping out of my comfort zone with my quilting. I stuck with straight line quilting on the sunset, with beams coming out of cross. Instead of using invisible thread, as I might have before, I used a rainbow variegated thread.

I stepped way out of my comfort zone for the bottom half of the quilt. I picked up my first free motion ruler at a quilt show. I was a little nervous about using it on a real quilt, especially with minky on the back, but it was going well so I kept with it.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the effort. I don't often use minky on quilts except for baby quilts, but with winter coming, I'm hoping that it keeps Steve warm, body and soul.

Between Steve's health and the distances between our homes, it's quite possible that this is the last time I'll see Steve this side of heaven. I let the label speak for me.

We drove up to Michigan this week to deliver the quilt in person. It was an unbelievable 70 November!  I couldn't resist taking a few photos on Lake Michigan with my favorite model.

That night, I was able to give Steve his quilt in person. Such a wonderful night!

Papa Steve well-lived earthly life ended on February 5, 2018.

To see more pictures of this quilt in progress, look for #itiswellquilt on Instagram. If you'd like to see what I'm currently working on, follow me at de Jong Dream House.

Linked to:
Let's Bee Social @ Sew Fresh Quilts
Linky Tuesday @ Free Motion by the River
Fabric Frenzy Friday @ Fort Worth Fabric
Fabric Tuesday @ Quilt Story
Midweek Makers @ Quilt Fabrication
Monday Making @ Love Laugh Quilt
Needle & Thread Thursday @ My Quilt Infatuation
Show Off Saturday @ Sew Can She
Whoop Whoop Fridays @ Confessions of a Fabric Addict

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  1. Thank you for sharing your story and Steve's! Meeting with Steve at FCS was always a favorite thing to do. Talking life, learning, family, and faith with Steve is a treasured gift. When you would post pictures of the quilt in progress I was thinking "I wonder if Jen ever sells her quilts?". I loved the design and it is one of my favorite hymns. Knowing the quilt is with Steve brings a smile to my face and makes my eyes water tonight. Well done, Jen. Your God given talents and compassionate heart are a special gift to us all. Hugs across the miles to you and to Steve. You are both special people! :)

  2. Visiting from Lets Bee Social. I love the sentiment, I love the quilt. Well done

  3. What a wonderful story behind a beautiful quilt. Thank you so much for sharing this on Midweek Makers

  4. I love that quilt and all the love and thought that went into it. I also love that song. My mom's word of the year is Peace, and when I think of her I hum "it is well with my soul"

    1. It is one of my favorites too. It was comforting to listen to so many versions as I worked.

  5. Beautiful quilt with a significant sentiment for a clearly significant person. Thanks for sharing the story and the quilt.

    1. Thank you. Steve is indeed a very significant people to many, many people.

  6. I think this is the most inspiring blog entry I have ever read, bar none, and on so many levels. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Wow. This is the kindest comment anyone has ever written here. Thank you!

  7. Thank you for sharing such a touching story and amazing process to making your quilt. Writing with tears brimming over....


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