Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Quilt #133 :: Thin Red Ironman Line

Merry Christmas from the de Jong Lake House, which is quickly becoming our new Dream House. It's not the house of which we lovingly and painstakingly designed each inch, but it is where my loves live, and they are the ones that have made my dreams of family come true. 

But mixed with the wonder and joy of the holidays, I know that too many of my friends are also filled with sorrow as ones they love live on only in their memories. One family that has been particularly close to my heart over the last year is the Kreza family. 

There is a special group of women I've written about before. We call each other The Moms and we met when we were all expecting our now 11-year old kiddos. I've made a few quilts for The Moms over the years. 

Most of the quilts were for new siblings to our birthday buddies, but where those were born of joy, this one was born of sorrow. 

For the second time in a decade, one of The Moms has lost her love. For those of us who only knew Mike Kreza from the adoring words and adorable photos posted by our friend Shanna, he seemed like the perfect guy. Mike was devoted to his wife, an involved daddy to his three girls, and from all reports, was a generous friend. He also had a fantastic smile that light up his eyes. He was a fire fighter in California who put his life on the line every day he went to the station. And he was an Ironman athlete to boot. It was while he was training for the 2018 Arizona Ironman that a man driving under the influence hit him on his bike. He died two days later, on November 5, 2018. 

Death is rarely fair, but it seems particularly cruel when it steals away too soon someone who adored his wife, lived for his kids, and chose the kind of career that is the epitome of selfless. His character and generosity is evident even now as his fire community, his Ironman community, and friends and strangers around the world have come along Shanna and the girls in a way most grieving families can't even fathom.

I've wanted to make a quilt for Shanna and her girls all year, but memory quilts are so hard to start. I think making a quilt like this makes a death feel so final and I just hate that our friend has to face this. 

This is the first quilt I made start to finish at the Lake House. I had a few ideas but knew that I had to incorporate the logo that was made in Mike's honor.
I ordered fabric from Spoonflower with the logo on it. (I did get permission from Shanna first, though she didn't know what I wanted to use it for). The font ended up much bigger than I thought, so I had to cut out the individual logos and piece them together in  a new design. I had envisioned an alternating brick pattern, but I really like how this turned out.

Being new to town, we don't know our local first responders yet. I brought the quilt over to our local station to request a photo in front of the station.

When I showed the dispatcher the quilt, she brought everyone at the station to admire it and hear about Mike's life. Then they offered to take a picture with it in front of one of their trucks. When I left, they gave me one of their patches to send to Mike's family with the quilt. 

I ultimately decided on the fire flag design despite Mike not dying in the line of duty because he risked his life each day, and when someone choses to be a firefighter, his lifetime of sacrifices deserved to be honored. 

Once I figured out how to make the quilt, I made the decision to use 44 different black tonal prints, one for each year of his life. After sorting through my stash, it took visits to six different quilt shops, plus Amazon to find everything I needed.

The red heart print has been in my stash for awhile, waiting for the right quilt. It was the first print I chose. 

For the quilting, I veered from my standard spiral and used one of the hearts to echo. I put an "S" in the center of the heart, because Shanna was at the center of everything Mike did. 

As you enjoy the company of your family on this Christmas, and all the holidays that follow, take a moment to think of first responder families, whose loved ones may be away on call or worse. Better yet, include in your tradition, a show of gratitude: take some goodies to the station, write a note of thanks, or if you are able, give a bit to help make the holidays a little easier on those missing their hero.

To see more photos of this quilt in progress, look for #thinredironmanline on Instagram. To see what I'm currently working on, please follow me at @dejongdreamhouse.

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  1. What a beautiful quilt and absolutely perfect for Mike's family. This hits close to home as my granddaughters lost their dad a week ago - 38 is too young to have a heart attack during a routine surgery. I pray that Shanna, Kaylie, Layla, and Audrey are healing and that your beautiful quilt will be a part of their healing and wonderful memories of their beloved.

  2. A lovely tribute, and so perfect. Thank you for sharing the difficult story of this quilt. I know this will be a comfort to Mike's family and will bring them healing with your special love attached to it.


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