Tuesday, October 31, 2017

One Monthly Goal :: October 2017 Update

As October comes to a close, it's time to follow up on my One Monthly Goal for October, to make Stella's Memory Quilt. Stella was a very special baby born to a friend of mine. But, for reasons still unknown, Stella was stillborn. 

I am very happy to report that Stella's quilt is done and I have plans to deliver it to Stella's mama this week. 

Linked to:

#90: Stella's Memory quilt

They say that good things come to those who wait. For as quickly as I can put some quilts together, others need to stew and ruminate in my mind for months or years while I figure out exactly what to do. Stella's memory quilt is just such a quilt. 

Stella's mom, Jacquie, and I met in 2009 when we were both part of a breastfeeding group. After our sons moved on to solid, we moved on as well, though we have remained Facebook friends. Jacquie's life took her to Arizona and I was happy to see that she was expecting a little girl. The day before Stella was born, Jacquie posted a photo of her beaming with excitement. Her no-longer-little guy proudly stood next to his mom, ready to take on the role of big brother. 

I looked forward to seeing the baby announcement on her Facebook page. But rather than happy news, I saw this.

Jacquie had a perfectly normal pregnancy and all was well at her last appointment. To this day, she doesn't know why Stella passed. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult that must be to accept. 

A couple days later, she posted this.

I had (and still have) no words for her grief, but I knew this was something I could do for her. I asked Jacquie for some of Stella's clothes. When she was ready, she sent me a box.

I had started looking for inspiration but hadn't decided on a pattern yet. Fortunately, Jacquie sent me a lot of clothes.

Baby onesie quilts have grown in popularity in recent years, but they are usually made to celebrate a baby's first year of life. This quilt served a different purpose, so I wanted it to be especially personal. In addition to the clothes, I wanted every detail to honor Stella. 

Looking through Jacquie's posts, I found comments like this to direct my decisions.

And this. 

And this. 

Based on all these things, I had ideas:
  • I wanted to use the onesies whole. I wanted Jacquie to picture Stella in them. While it may have been easier, and patterns abound for onesie quilts where the clothing is cut into squares, I thought it was important that they remain whole.
  • It couldn't be too "girly" because that's not Jacquie's style.
  • I wanted Stella's name and face on the quilt. 
  • I wanted to include stars and butterflies. 
  • I wanted something to that included her son, N, who is the reason we met.
In the last year or so, I have started and stopped this quilt countless time. It's never come off my first tier quilt priorities. But every time I thought I'd buckle down and work on it, the pattern didn't feel right. I pray over every quilt as I work on it, asking God to help the recipient feel my love and His, that it will over comfort or healing or whatever is needed. 

I was feeling pretty frustrated that none of my ideas were panning out the way I had hoped and I stressed myself out because I felt like I was keeping Stella from her mama by holding on to her clothes. Living with a brain injury means that deadlines (even self-imposed ones) stunt my creativity. So I gave myself permission to set it aside for a time while I worked on other quilts.

During that time, Jacquie became pregnant with twins. And then lost one of her babies, again. Also during this time, Stella's dad left the picture. Six months ago, Jacquie's rainbow baby was born. And  then, finally, my inspiration came.  

I was doing image searches for "baby memory quilts." I was quite sure I have looked at every one ever posted online, but that night I saw this one by Rachel Miller of Journey Back Quilts

It ticked a lot of the boxes on my list: not too girly, clothes intact name included, and so many stars!

I worked out my own version, and then amended it a few more times as I got to work. It was the end of September and I realized that...

That was just the push I needed to get started. I announced this quilt as my October One Monthly Goal so I'd have accountability to get it done. 

October is a hard month for so many of my friends. I had two early miscarriages before our son was born. In fact, my first miscarriage occurred in October. My grief is different than Jacquie's and I would never want to diminish the double portion of loss she has endured. That said, I truly believe I felt her grief intensely as I worked on this quilt. 

After receiving Stella's clothes last year, the first thing I did was look for star fabric. This print, called Stella Pink Mist by Lotta Janspotter couldn't be more perfectly named. It has Stella's name, and her brief life was a pink mist. Plus, it's super cute. 

Sorting through my stash, I found this black butterfly print. I'm not even sure when I picked it up. My first thought is that I liked the black to acknowledge Jacquie's grief, and the pink matched the star print. I wasn't sure of the butterflies, but when I went back and her post about butterflies, I knew it was meant to be.

I knew I wanted minky for the backing. My initial design was too wide for all but the extra wide minky. That would limit me to a solid color rather than a print. I was mulling over the shades of pink when I found this one called Flowerfly Paris

It's wide, but not extra wide, so I had to adjust my pattern, again, so that it was no more than 56" wide.

I had originally planned on the alternating blocks as a border all the way around, but the side borders made the quilt too wide. 

A big part of my procrastination with this quilt was a fear of making a mistake that would ruin Stella's clothes. So after the border blocks, I started with the next easiest party, the applique. 

I designed the letters on my Silhouette Cameo using the font AR Essence.

I used a narrow zig zag stitch for the applique.

Stella and Jacquie were always close to my heart as I worked.

For the images on either side of Stella's name, I always knew I would use this one in black and white.

As I scrolled throught Jacquie's feed for the hundredth time, I found something I had missed, this picture that her son drew for Stella. It was a perfect way to capture his feelings in the quilt.

Sorting through the clothes again I found two hats. I thought they would be better than two generic stars by Stella's birth day.

I stopped here for a few days as I pondered how to applique the clothes. I used the power of the Wayback machine to find a tutorial on the late great mcharlottemorris.com.

The big takeaway I learned is that even when outfits are kept whole, the back is often cut out to reduce bulk. The key is to leave enough of the edge so that it tucks under to give the appearance of being whole. I held my breath and cut the back of one of the hats.

Whew! I didn't mess it up! I added Pellon 906F Fusible Interfacing to stabilize the fabric so it would stretch as I appliqued it to the quilt.  

I topstitched along the edge, making sure to catch the tucked under part. The top of the hat was tricky, but I got it. I also singed the edge of the ribbon with a lighter so it wouldn't unravel.

Feeling much more confident, I attached the other hat and clothes in the same way.

For the binding, I used a black and rainbow print with rainbow variated thread to include Jacquie's youngest son. 

Finally, for the label, I usually include my website and the hashtag I used on Instagram so that the new owner can read all about their quilt. In this case, it seemed to self-promoting for such a personal quilt. 

Ever since I started quilting, my son has had a very important job. When I finish a quilt, a before it goes to a new home, he wraps himself in the quilt and "adds the love" as we pray over it. When I told him that this quilt is for a mama whose baby girl went right to heaven he said, "Well then, this quilt needs extra love in it."

Now the best part, getting to deliver this quilt to Stella's mama! I pray it will be a tangible way to feel close and connected to her daughter. 

I want to mention something that I learned about while working on this quilt. A friend of a friend has an organization called Ashlie's Embrace. Ashlie was also stillborn at full term. Her parents, Erin and Anthony Marroon had less than an hour to spend with her before death's natural changes started to occur. They founded Ashlie's Embrace to provide special cooling pads, called CuddleCots, to hospitals in the United States to give grieving parents more time to hold, bath, and dress their babies, as well as recover from their initial shock and have time to really say goodbye. Visit Ashlie's Embrace to learn more about CuddleCots and how to make more of these devices available to grieving families.

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


Stella's Memory Quilt is home. It was wonderful to delivery it in person, catch up with Stella's mom and meet her little brother.

My favorite picture of our time together is this one where baby V patted the minky and studied the rainbow binding I put on the quilt just for him. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Grandma's Kitchen, block #17: Pantry Goods

After a week off to play with the layout, we're are back to making blocks for Pat Sloan's Grandma's Kitchen quilt along! This is week 17--I've been working on this project for more than four months already!

The name of this week's block is Pantry Goods, inspired by the fall, and how many grandmas are finishing their canning and "putting up for the winter."

I don't remember my Gramma canning, and I don't remember a pantry in her Blackduck house, either. Although, it's possible she had some things stored in the scary part of the basement I avoided. She had really cool push-activated cabinets to store her things, and they entertained little me for hours when she would let me play with them.

I do love a good pantry. When we built our house 6 years ago, before I discovered quilting, cooking was my passion. We made a large pantry a priority. 

Though I don't can, my aunt Lori does, and just yesterday posted this picture with the caption, "Happy popping sounds going on. Last canning of 2017."

Lori is also our family historian. She has been a huge help with this project as she has shared photos and stories with me. She really came through with this week's block.

When I started thinking about how to fit the theme of pantry with Gramma Ann, I thought about how she weathered the depression as a young girl and World War 2 as a young bride. Those experiences influenced her views on money, spending, and saving. I often saw her washing out margarine tubs to re-use for storage, rinsing out plastic bags and drying them inside out, and carefully wiping and folding aluminum foil for re-use. One of my aunts reminded me how hen we'd travel, she would rinse her "grundies" in the sink. Her thrifty ways paid off. She traveled into her late 80s, and lived independently into her 90s.

But the story that immediately came to mind when I thought of "storing up" has to do with my Grandpa Leo. I believe the story goes that he was driving along the road in rural Minnesota where he served as game warden when he found several large rolls of pink and blue butcher block paper on the side of the road. (It's also possible he saw them fall off. I'm not sure). At any rate, he loaded them in his truck and from then on, he and Gramma used that paper to wrap every present they gave for the rest of their lives!

When I shared this memory with my mom and aunties, Lori said she STILL had a roll.

We are figuring that this paper must be about 50 years old!!

Lori is the youngest of the 5 Manthei "seesters." I'm told that she was often recruited to draw pictures on the paper when it was used as wrapping paper. My mom and aunts are all artistic, so this doesn't surprised me at all.

When we visited Lori a few years ago on our way to Russian camp,  she drew this picture for my aspiring rocket scientist.

For my block this week, I used pink and blue solid prints as a nod to that butcher block paper. I think Gramma would like that I used scraps of blue from a memory quilt I made earlier this year. The two "Nana's Last Gift" quilts were made after the mother of one of my son's classmates approached me to see if I could use her late mom's quilting stash. When I went through it, I found several log cabin blocks that I was able to reassemble into two quilts.

I'm still finalizing the layout so I can include photos, but here's my layout at this point.

Previous blocks:
If you'd like to see what I'm currently working on, follow me on Instagram at de Jong Dream House.

Linked to:
Pat Sloan (Click here to see more Pantry Goods blocks)
BOMs Away @ What a Hoot Quilts
Design Wall Monday @ Small Quilts & Doll Quilts
Fiber Tuesday @ Quilting Room with Mel
Finished or Not Friday @ Busy Hands Quilts
Let's Bee Social #201 @ Sew Fresh Quilts
Linky Tuesday @ Freemotion by the River
Main Crush Monday @ Cooking Up Quilts
Midweek Makers #96 @ Quilt Fabrication
Monday Making @ Love Laugh Quilt
MOP Monday @ Tweety Loves Quilting
Moving It Forward @ Em's Scrap Bag
Needle & Thread Thursday @ My Quilt Infatuation
Off the Wall Friday @ Nina Marie
Oh Scrap! @ Quilting is More Fun than Housework
To Do Tuesday @ Stitch All the Things
Wednesday Wait Loss #39 @ The Inquiring Quilter
WIPs on Wednesday @ Esther's Blog
WIPs Wednesday @ Silly Mama Quilts
Whoop Whoop Friday @ Confessions of a Fabric Addict

Friday, October 27, 2017

Sammy's Memory Pillow

My son has some pretty awesome friends. They are good kids. Kind, smart, funny. And, their moms are some of my best friends. So when they hurt, we hurt. 

Late this summer, one of our friends said goodbye to their four-footed family member, Sammy. Watching Kara wrestle with that worst final decision brought up memories of when we lost our Bailey. Sammy and Bailey were with us from our pre-marriage, pre-parenthood days. For Kara's son and mine, our dogs were their first friends. 

When a little boy loses his favorite cuddle pillow, I knew he needed something new and soft to hold. Let me show you how I made Sammy pillow.

First, I stalked Kara's Facebook for a picture of Sammy and his boy. The photo I chose is the last picture of them together.

I used my new Epson WorkForce WF-7610 printer, which I bought for projects just like this. It prints up to 13" x 19"! I squared up the photo and printed it 12.5 x 12.5" on fabric. I forgot to take a photo of how I prepped the fabric. I cut 12.5" square pieces of both white Kona fabric and freezer paper.  I ironed the freezer paper over the Kona fabric. The freezer paper gives the fabric stability so that it can go through the inkjet printer. 

For the rest of the pillow. I used soft minky ("Soft like Sammy," declared the boy) and a blue print to pull the blue of the minky with the blue in the photo.

I sewed 12" x 2.5" to opposite sides. 

Then I sewed two 16.5" x 2.5" strips to the remaining sides.

Once all four sides are pressed open, I had a 16.5" pillow front. 

I pinned the pillow top right sides together with a piece of minky slightly bigger than the top. Minky has a tendency to shift so I find it's easier to trim excess than stress about an edge being short.

Next, I sewed a 1/4" seam around the edge of the pillow top, leaving a 2" hole from turning the pillow right side out. 

Use a ruler to trim off the excess minky as well as the corners to avoid bulk.

Minky makes a big mess so at this point I pull out my favorite lint roller to clean up a bit. 

Next I used a chopstick to turn the pillowcase inside out and get nice points in the corners.

At this point, I could have used a pillow form, but I'm trying to use up some scraps. Before I got to my scraps, I stuffed the corners with some polyfil. I find it hold the shape of the corners a little better. 

Next, I recruited my son to help so he could be part of making his friend's gift. He started stuffing the pillow with scraps, then Niels took over, then I finished.

Finally, I practiced my blind stitch to close the hole. 

We always put lots of love in our handmade gifts.

And ready to deliver!

And since this post has made me miss my fur-baby, I'll share this photo, which was taken on Bailey's last day. (Gah! Look at my baby boy!)

And here's a little something I wrote the morning after we said goodbye to Bailey.

Early Morning Thoughts on the First Day After 

Walking back to our car was first worst thing. 
No tugging on your leash 
No jumping to the seat 
My lap was so empty with only your collar. 
On the long, short ride home, the rain mimicked our quiet tears. 
Pulling into the driveway, I couldn’t help but look through the window 
To make sure you weren’t perched on the couch 
I swore we heard your "woof woof woof"
And the jingle of your collar when we stepped inside 
You’re nowhere 
And everywhere. 
Your leash hangs silently on its hook 
Your dish disheveled on the floor 
Your food, untouched. 
The indentation of your withered body 
Still caves your favorite spot on the sofa 
Your favorite toy lays lonely on the floor 
Your last treat remains, half enjoyed. 
It was time, sweet girl. 
But not enough time. 
At nighttime, you were part of our routine 
One last trip outside 
One last lap of water 
Last night’s lasts were the last lasts. 
You didn’t bound up the steps 
Brushing my leg in your rush to our room. 
How can our crowded bed suddenly feel so big? 
How can our thick comforter lack any warmth? 
You didn’t lick your daddy's ears. 
You didn’t cuddle into my side. 
How can I possibly sleep? 
I woke up early and often 
And you weren’t there to coax me back to slumber. 
Your daddy slumbers 
Because you weren’t there to wake him with a nuzzle 
And request to go outside. 
I sit here still feeling the tremor of your last days 
And thanking God for all of our good days. 
I peek in on our young son 
And wonder how we’ll make him understand 
That our vet couldn’t “fix it.” 
Couldn’t heal you. 
How will I answer when he looks for you? 
No more shared meals with a toddler. 
I’ll have to start sweeping the floor. 
You were my helpful shadow, 
And the reflection of my life doesn’t look right now. 
Who will tell me when the mail is here? 
Or the garbage is being picked up? 
That company has come? 
Or that Daddy is home? 
I have no wild barking to calm. 
No tummy to rub. 
No four-footed observer in my kitchen. 
We have an empty space under —an empty chair at—our dinner table. 
Our laps will remain empty 
Our hands won’t know what to do. 
No more 8 o’clock bursts of energy. 
White flashes around the room. 
No more smiles of pure joy. 
No more paws upon our hands. 
No more thump-thump as you jump to the floor. 
In the coming days, 
We’ll remember what we forgot. 
All the sounds you made as the symphony of our home. 
Your stage is silent. 
How can one who cannot speak say so much? 
You’ve been so much more than a dog. 
You were my heart on training wheels. 
And you taught me how to love. 
I'm so sad that your work was done. 
You’ve been a mile marker in my life. 
You’ve been with me from single to married to mommy. 
You’re part of all my important moments. 
I don’t know why I thought if I lost you now, 
It would be easier somehow. 
What is ever easy about a final goodbye? 
I miss you, sweet girl. 
Thank you for being part of my life. 
Thank you for a good life. 
Thank you. 

In memory of Bailey Grace with a Silly Face April 14, 2001 – March 5, 2011

Linked to:
Design Wall Monday @ Small Quilts & Doll Quilts
Fiber Tuesday @ Quilting Room with Mel
Finished or Not Friday @ Busy Hands Quilts
Let's Bee Social #201 @ Sew Fresh Quilts
Linky Tuesday @ Freemotion by the River
Main Crush Monday @ Cooking Up Quilts
Midweek Makers #96 @ Quilt Fabrication
Monday Making @ Love Laugh Quilt
MOP Monday @ Tweety Loves Quilting
Moving It Forward @ Em's Scrap Bag
Needle & Thread Thursday @ My Quilt Infatuation
Oh Scrap! @ Quilting is More Fun than Housework
Off the Wall Friday @ Nina Marie
Show Off Saturday @ Sew Can She
TGIFF @ Anja Quilts
To Do Tuesday @ Stitch All the Things
Wednesday Wait Loss #39 @ The Inquiring Quilter
Whoop Whoop Friday @ Confessions of a Fabric Addict
WIPs on Wednesday @ Esther's Blog
WIPs Wednesday @ Silly Mama Quilts

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