Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Temporary Holding Pattern

I handed over the sewing room to my daughter last night and I'm still gathering the final supplies to begin hand quilting Laura's quilt. I'll post a picture of my design wall soon, but meanwhile, I would love to share with you a video that really lifted my spirits as I watched it. Hope, Dreams, Mother's pride, and a whole lot of other warm feelings.  I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Embroidery Stitchery Contest at the Quilting Gallery

If you have time today, jump over to the Embroidery/Stitchery contest hosted by the Quilting Gallery here, and vote for my friend, Masha's submission, "Encrusted Ferns".  Masha blogged about it here.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Bigger Promise Than I Thought

When I promised my daughter a quilt with trees, I really didn't know what I was saying. After a few days of pondering and browsing through a book on art quilts, I started by taping together the backside of some wrapping paper to a piece of packing paper to make my actual size template. I spent the 2 evenings drawing out a grid of 6 inch blocks then redrawing my pattern onto the template to make a final 5x6 foot piece.
I put that piece on the design wall,
Then cut out 1/2 of a  trunk at a time to piece. First I numbered the pieces to help keep track.

After piecing the light gray, I added dark grey wedges with raw stitch applique. I used a moderately tight satin stitch, then a triple stitch on the inside to add some texture to the bark. I chose dark grey and medium dark grey threads with a low sheen. 

Once I finish with a tree trunk, I put it back in its place on the template. This process doesn't go quickly at all. The extra steps needed to make the bark look realistic are time consuming, but in the end I think they will really add dimension and keep the quilt from being too abstract.

The original plan was to finish my daughter's quilt top before I hand over to her the sewing room for the summer. But it took all weekend just to make 1 1/2 trunks, and I haven't even begun the background blocks. I may have to negotiate with her some studio hours on the weekends.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Now That's Amazing!

The United States has  nearly 100,000 public schools, 55 million elementary and secondary students and 2.5 million public school teachers in large, small, urban, suburban and rural districts. Those statistics don't include the 84,000 students in the 94 DODDS schools on American military bases  in 14 districts located in 12 foreign countries, seven states, Guam, and Puerto Rico, with about 8,700 teachers who teach a highly mobile student population. 

The last few years, politicians and the media have targeted America's teachers and laid at their feet the blame of the nation for its failed domestic policies, for the poor test scores of a student population where 22% of America's children live in poverty.  And it breaks my heart to see these professionals treated this way.

I have to admit some bias here as I am a former teacher. I have dealt with America's education system since 1991, when my son entered kindergarten at a DODDs school in Wiesbaden, Germany.  After my son graduated from high school, my job took my daughter and I up and down the Eastern seaboard as I searched for employment during the recession. She has transferred schools every year of her educational career. She is entering the 9th grade, with records from 10 different schools in 5 different states.  We, my children and I, experienced private and public education, wealthy school districts as well as schools where 86% of the student population fell below the poverty line. While we did come across a dud once in a while, for the most part, our teachers were well educated, dedicated, sacrificial and did amazing things with next to nothing. When I sat down and counted the number of teachers that participated in my children's lives, I realized that I had along the way 84 dedicated partners with me to aid me in my efforts to raise responsible, reliable and intelligent citizens.

If you read this far, thank you for staying with me because I'm going somewhere with all of that introduction.

There are a lot of Bloggers out there who do some really great stuff. And their work or their words make you glad you found their sites. I have been following Michele's blog, Quilts From My Crayon Box because she leads a crazy busy life, makes beautiful quilts and keeps things real. 

 She's been writing from time to time about some quilts she was making for her children's teachers, the details, the struggles, the amount of work, etc. etc. And I thought, oh, that's nice. She's making some wall hangings. Well last night, she posted her reveal photos after she gave the quilts to the teachers yesterday on the last day of school. Amazing! Michele made full size quilts for these teachers and each of them are works of art. My eyes welled with tears when I saw how much work and care she put into these quilts and the depth of gratitude she demonstrated to these educators.

Please visit Michele's blog and let her know you also appreciate her work.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Learning to Let Go

It took longer than normal, but I finally finished the dozen blocks I needed for my contribution to a block swap. It was hard, but not because of the pattern. A valuable life lesson the New Testament teaches is, in everything you do, do it for the glory of God.    

Perhaps in part due to my reaction to my meds, and the extra caution I took with the rotary blades, the piecing process  was slowed down with this project and I really took my time to measure, to block,  to do each of those mundane and boring steps I am so often tempted to skip, because, they're boring. And because I didn't have the energy to spend time choosing more batik fabric at my favorite shop, I used what I had on hand. 

I had on hand a beautiful piece of fabric I picked up years ago, even before my daughter was born, and my son was still in grade school. It was a hand blocked batik from Indonesia with a repeat pattern that took up 1 1/2 yards. The dyes were in indigo and a marbled blue and the scene was a Savannah watering hole full of giraffes, zebras, elephants, just gorgeous. I never cut into it, because the fabric was too pretty, and I knew I would never find anything like it again. An internal dilemma arose. This fabric is too precious, I thought, these people are strangers, I said, what if I don't get back similar value in the exchange? I decided to continue making the blocks and wait til I was finished to decide what to do.

I fussy cut the fabric so that each of the smaller animals could be highlighted in the baskets and set aside the larger elephants and giraffes for another project. I then used up the scraps of batik fabrics I had on hand to make up the HSTs for the "fruit". When I finished, I put them up on the wall, and really liked the colors and pattern. And because this swap required me to make a dozen blocks I had in effect pieced together a 4 foot wall hanging. A few more triangles, a couple of borders, and it would have been done. I'm going to keep this, I decided. And went back to planning and choosing a complementing block to expand the quilt to a more functional size.

Having spent a day now with owning the quilt in my mind and even deciding where it would be used in my home, I finally honored the quiet thought that remained ever present, that keeping these blocks was never the intended purpose. In these blocks, the triangles had points. the baskets looked like porcelain vases, they were well done, as if they were made for God's glory. 

I heard someone say once that if you boil done all of the human emotions, there are really only two, Love and Fear. My fatigue kept my mind from it's usual frenetic pace of processing, and the temptation to hold on to something made me ask myself, who am I, really? Why do I even plan to participate in swaps if in the back of my mind, I don't plan on giving my best effort? Why would I care what quality block I receive in return? Who truly is my audience, them, me, or God? Why do I do what I do? It was a good exercise all around - making these blocks, considering keeping them and then ultimately deciding to let them go. In the process, I wrote my mission statement to answer the question, why do I do what I do? In another post, I'll answer that question. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Unexpected Events

I had one of those beautiful holiday weekends where everything was going so well. Sunday afternoon, my daughter and I took the bus into Narberth to set up sewing lessons for her at the Cloth and Bobbin, then my son picked us up to grab a bite to eat.  We made plans to spend our day off on Monday to shop for a dress for her 8th grade dance and other summer items. It was a very relaxing time.

About 2 hours after we returned home, I went to the emergency room with a sharp pain in my gut only to stay in the hospital through Tuesday. I'm fine now, but my game is way off.

I'm healing, the meds are working, but they affect my concentration and working with sharp blades and needles requires a lot of concentration. I returned to the sewing room for the first time on Saturday to make myself a get well basket of fruit. Now I'm beginning to feel better. 

Soon I will be turning over the sewing room to my daughter for the summer while I spend my time doing handwork. There is one big project left on my design wall that I was hoping to finish up before then, and that was her teal and grey orange peel quilt. One evening, after finishing up the 20th paper pieced orange peel, she walked in, looked at the wall and said, "Those look like leaves. Can you make a forest instead?"

A forest.  How about a snake? I asked. That's an easy design with these blocks.  

She wrinkled her nose and said no, she wanted a tree. So I played around with rearranging them into a semblance of a tree and left it alone.   Since this week's illness kept me away from sharp objects, I had time to think about a new design for all of those orange peels I just made. I decided after a few false starts to K.I.S.S it, Keep It Simple, Silly. 

I settled on a simple background of somewhat straight, almost vertical lines. The background will be a series of crumb blocks with the teal ranging from light to dark. The tree trunks will be chunks of light grey fabric with dark sideways triangles to give the suggestion of birch trees. 

After I make the background, I will applique the orange peels at the bottom of the quilt to look like fern leaves in a forest. I'll keep you posted on its progress.