Monday, November 30, 2009

Memory Quilts and the Party in the USA

I find it so interesting to observe the seasons of one's life as it relates to quilting. For a time I could hardly manage to get all of the baby quilts finished before the babies arrived. Luckily I started my family on the young side, so there were only a few times when my own babies risked going quilt-less in order for me to finish one for someone else.

Nowadays, though, the baby quilts are spread a little thin, and more likely to be donated to charity than crafted for a dear friend or cousin.

But turning 40 myself this summer means that, naturally, I have lots of friends reaching that same milestone. I've found myself making a few memory quilts in honor of a special birthday, and learned a few tricks along the way.

These quilts have always been a favorite of mine, ever since I first stumbled through the one for my father-in-law's 60th birthday. My inspiration was Ami Simms' book Creating Scrapbook Quilts; I return to it for ideas and possibilities every time. For his quilt, I used a very scrappy palette and lots of embellishment. I also added a border of muslin so that the attendees at his surprise party could all sign their best wishes.

I have to say that this muslin border is probably my favorite way of collecting signatures; asking loved ones to send you their well wishes ahead of time is fraught with danger, including mail being misdirected and performance anxiety preventing a timely return. Signing the border while at the actual event is more like passing a group card, so reduces the stress of finding the perfect words and virtually guarantees that all in attendance will participate. The only downside, of course, is that anyone who can't make the party isn't included. This is easily remedied by bringing the quilt or having it out when visiting with those who couldn't be there and providing a pen so they can add their signature.

But back to turning 40...I have made three special birthday quilts in the last month or so since I went AWOL from blogging. (Again I have to apologize for the photos. I have been promised a new camera for Christmas...suggestions anyone?)

The most recent is a 40th birthday quilt involving a small group. Twelve of us went on a getaway spa weekend to celebrate my walking buddy. I asked each woman to send me a photo of herself with the birthday girl, and a message. Since I was dragging it out of them right up until the trip, it wasn't done in time for the party; luckily the actual birth date wasn't for another few weeks. The beauty of this was in being able to include photos from the party in the quilt. For this one I used a controlled scrappy theme - I found perfect pink and brown butterfly fabric to suit her "theme song." Then I pulled all of the pink fabrics out of my stash and went to town. (I couldn't help thinking of the scene in Steel Magnolias where Shelby talks about her wedding colors of "blush and bashful," while her mother mutters that the whole sanctuary "looks like it was hosed down with Pepto Bismol.") I love how it turned out, and even added a bit of her song with a recording device stuck behind the label.

Oh, this post is getting so long and it's getting late! I will have to finish memory quilts another day. Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Not-So-Organized-Christmas and the Magic Elf

Can you believe Thanksgiving has come and gone? Time to start thinking about Christmas for REAL now!

I've fallen off the Organized Christmas wagon for a few weeks, but am determined to get back on in full force.

This week
is when we pull out all of our decorations and organize the storage area where they live. One thing I finally figured out a few years ago was to pack all of the Advent decorations and ideas together so that, no matter how crazy, I could at least pull out that one box in time for the first Sunday. It also helps me stay focused on the point of it all.

The other thing that happens at our house this week is the arrival of our Magic Elf. I know there are strong feelings on both sides of allowing an Elf into your home, and I was on the other side for a LONG time. Finally my daughter convinced me to get a helpful elf, and I caved. I'll have to admit that Candie is a huge help in December when life gets crazy; she decorates, finishes wrapping gifts or addressing cards when I'm too tired, and leaves fun surprises for cold weekend entertainment. We got very lucky not to have one of those mischievous elves who make messes and play tricks!

Does an elf visit your house? When do you start decorating? Are you prepared or in a panic? I love to hear about different traditions.

Whatever you do to get in the spirit, I hope it's going smoothly. Enjoy the end of the long weekend. Tomorrow: more quilty posting!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Keeping Quilt

Remember that guild challenge I was working on with the old wool blazers from Goodwill?


As in, done done. All the way done. With a label.

Here was the challenge: choose a children's book that has something to do with quilts. One of our guild members has a phenomenal collection, and she donated many of them to this project. I have several books myself, but had no idea the vast possibilities for this challenge.

After choosing a book, we each were to make a quilt that represented the quilt in the book in some way. Some books had vivid illustrations, and some only had descriptive language. The quilt was to be 36" x 45" (ish). The quilt and book will be donated and used for educational purposes.

I chose the book The Keeping Quilt, written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco. I love this book for several reasons. One is that it is a true story. There is a real "keeping quilt" handed down by the author's family for generations. Here is a picture of her with it.

Another reason is that it seems to me to capture all of the best things about quilting: memories preserved, the community of women, recycling, and art. In the book, a family emigrates to America. The girl's clothing is soon outgrown and worn out, but her mother suggests using it to create a quilt, to remember "the old country."

All of the women in the community come together to create the beautiful quilt, adorned with primitive shapes of animals, flowers, and hearts. The finished quilt is used by the girl throughout her life as a picnic blanket as she is being courted, the huppa at her wedding, and to swaddle her newborn daughter. The story and the quilt are handed down from generation to generation, until the author is holding her own child wrapped in it.

Here is my challenge quilt interpreting this wonderful story.

I am especially proud of the fact that, in my attempt to keep to the story, everything I used except the thread and batting came from the thrift store. And I even used scraps of batting! The wool was from those jackets, and the backround and backing were from an old sheet. The red on the scalloped edge was a shirt. (Only $3!) I had originally planned to hand applique and hand quilt it, in order to be truly authentic, but I had to face the fact that I HATE hand applique and was running out of time for hand quilting. Oh well...

Now a challenge for you: I am in charge of my guild's challenge for 2010. What are your favorite guild challenges? Do you like a wacky fabric to work with? A theme? Lots of rules to make you step outside of your comfort zone? Or would you rather have broad leeway to make whatever you want?

I need to decide within the next month and I have no idea, so keep those cards and letters coming.

Tomorrow I'll update you on Organized Christmas, and then MORE quilty goodness!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sesamoiditis and Belly Dancing

So the first thing I'm going to tell you is about Better U or MYM with Jillian Michaels.

Halloween derailed me a little bit with the eating, and I got a little lax with my diet. With some ups and downs and stay-the-sames, I'm only down about 22 lbs total. I can't complain, but I do need to get with it again.

We were just starting to bump up our mileage to 5 a day when my foot started hurting. Not wanting to go down that same path as my friend last year (plantar fascitis) I immediately saw an orthopedist.

The good news is that I don't have that. Instead I have sesamoiditis, which is basically a pain in the ball of the foot. I am preening a bit that it is most common in active young people. HA!

The bad news is that I can't walk for my exercise, or anything else that puts an impact on that part of my foot, for 3 months. I broke down, joined a gym, and have been on the bike for the last 5 days. I can't say that I love it, but I don't want to lose all the progress I've made.

As for sweet Daisy, she is miserably unhappy. Obviously I can't take her to the gym. I've got the boys taking her in the morning and evening, but they just don't have the time to walk her as far as I was going.

I am hopeful that after the 3 months I will be able to go back to my walks, even if it means shorter distances, but the doctor just said, "we'll see." (According to my kids, that means no.)

Meanwhile, my friend is thisclose to hitting her 50 lb goal! It is so exciting and motivating. As a celebration for 40 lbs, she has arranged a belly dancing class for about 15 of us. That should be a fun time for everyone. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tomorrow I will update you on actual quilt related items of interest. Yes, there are finished quilts in tomorrow's post. I know you'll hardly be able to sleep tonight!

Hope you all had a great Black Friday.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I know I have been MIA for awhile, but I will be back tomorrow. I have so much to tell you all, and some finished quilts to show you.

But for today, I just needed to say how thankful I am for my health, my family, and my friends. It was a beautiful, wonderful day that filled me with gratitude.

I hope you had a great day, too, and that you counted your blessings instead of your calories.
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