Monthly Archives: May 2014

“Happy” Memorial Day? Celebrate in the Garden.

memorial-day-cemetary

Memorial day is both a solemn remembrance of the death of American soldiers and a celebration of their service. Sounds like an oxymoron to some, but being sad and celebrating makes sense to me.

See, my Mom’s mother died young. I never got to meet her. So Mom and I had lots of conversations about death when I was little. One fantasy Mom had was to be cremated and have her ashes spread in someone’s garden. I thought it’d be romantic to drift out to sea. We talked about how hard it is when someone you love died… how it’s okay to be angry and sad. Mom said she’d like a big party after her funeral. One where people laughed and smiled and remembered the good times.

So that’s what we did. Mom died suddenly when I was only fourteen. We cried and laughed. Mourned and celebrated. She was not a soldier, but soldiers aren’t just their job. They’re brothers, fathers, sisters, sons, mothers. Some of the people honored this memorial day will be remembered by their great-great-grandchildren. My thoughts are with each of you as you celebrate and honor your loved ones in your own way.

And now for some pictures of my garden. Growth, death, new life… yeah, gardening works for Memorial Day. Here’s the front. That big fro of foliage is carrots. Yup, my husband vetoed thinning the plants so we might have one giant carrot under that mess. We also have garlic and onions in this patch.

front gardenThese corn plants are doing pretty well.healthy cornTheir neighboring corn plants, not so well. They’ve become a tasty treat for the local bunnies. eaten corn
It’s nearly time to put the second tire on our potato planters. Remember how small these guys used to be? We’ll need a bale of hay soon too. 
potatoesThis pumpkin plant is doing well. Only two of six have thrived.
pumpkin All of the watermelon plants look thick and bushy like this. They must like it here. I predict our backyard will be gradually overtaken by vines…. and watermelon slushies are in order at harvest time. Mmmmm….watermellon

Expect an update on the T-shirt quilt I’m working on in my next post.

 

Advertisements

Attics, Shirts, and Turkeys

For over a week now, my husband and I have been spending our nights in the attic. I haven’t done much sewing since we sleep during the day, like Mo. (Remember Mo?) We’re installing the heat and air conditioning in our house. It’s much more complicated than just a change-out (replacing equipment) because this place never had air conditioning. Since it never did, we can’t use any of the old spots for duct work because they’re too small. Plus we’re moving the furnace from a closet to the attic. So it has been quite the project.

The good news is that there are four very small things left to do: two fittings, install the thermostat, and prime the compressor. Then we can turn it on! Woooo! Another piece of good news is that even though I’m quite accomplished at duct work now, I won’t have to touch another piece of that devilish fiberglass insulation for a very long time, if ever. Sweet relief. I’ve already showered so here’s the shot you get of the attic from the access hole.

AC Attic

I’ll get to focus more on my quilting now that this job will be finished today. I’m excited to begin the T-shirt quilt for a customer. The box of shirts arrived, complete with a chart of where each shirt was going…. which is super helpful. This customer decided to use both sides of some shirts and just one side of others. We’ll also alternate lights and darks in a grid pattern. Fun!Box O Shirts I’ll also be finishing up the tops for the two twin-sized quilts for the Turkey Clan room at Crystal Lake Camps. I have one done and the other needs a few borders before it’s large enough for the bed. Photos coming soon! Here’s one way I keep projects all together. I have plastic containers with drawers and can keep both blocks and fabrics together for easy access. And, you know, so I don’t use the fabrics for something else in the meantime. It’s happened. Don’t laugh. 🙂

Turkey DrawerExpect a post soon with photos of pretty quilts! Until then, a friendly reminder. Please take care of yourselves. Self-care is something that needs to be practiced and paid attention to. I have a few friends who had some health scares this past week. I’m both grateful that they got immediate help and reminded how important it is for me to pay attention to my thoughts and body.

 

Two Babies, Two Unique Quilts

Quilting-land at my house has been taken over by babies at my house. Just the way I like it. 🙂 The first baby quilt is for a little boy, newly arrived. I decided to do large disappearing nine-patch blocks. The first photo is what it looked like before the nine-patches were cut apart and rearranged.

big block 9 patches

Here it is, all together. It’s a little wrinkly, fresh from the dryer. I wash all of the baby quilts I make before mailing them out. Why? Because I spray baste, which leaves a bit of the glue residue inside the quilt until the first wash. I wouldn’t want a baby sucking on that.

Celeste front

Lastly, the fold-over shot. Isn’t this backing super cute? It’s a flannel, so it’s super-soft.

Celeste foldoverThe second quilt is for a baby who isn’t here yet. We don’t know if this baby is a he or a she, so my customer asked for a gender-neutral animal quilt. She pictured mom and baby looking at the quilt and talking about animal sounds.

I piled up the animal fabrics and started designing. I ended up going with my third or fourth idea for this quilt. See, I could piece all these animal fabrics together and come up with a big zoo for the kiddo to explore. But I kept coming back to the customer’s vision that included animal sounds. I had 34 animals which included rabbits, hedgehogs, penguins, and crocodiles. Pared down to the ones that make recognizable, kid-friendly noises, I was left with 17 blocks.

I decided to make this quilt have a lot of negative space between the blocks. A subtle fabric, lots of space to breathe, not too busy. Rather than piecing the top, I sandwiched and quilted it whole cloth. I marked the quilting lines with a Frixion pen, which comes right out in the wash along with the spray baste.

AnimalQuilt Marking

Then I added the animals to the quilt. First I framed each in black fabric, then I sewed each down to the quilt. So instead of being appliqued to the background fabric, they are actually quilted on top of everything.
AnimalQuilt AppliqueHere’s what the blocks look like all laid out and pinned in place. It’s a little bit like a photograph wall. 
AnimalQuiltPinnedI bound this one in the background fabric and sent it on its way… before getting the all-important fold-over shot. Luckily, my customer sent me this picture when the quilt arrived safely at her house. Red fabric with chicks on it for the backing!

Animals Foldover

Now for a bit of hand-applique. This will be the final border on a round-robin piece for my quilt guild next week. I’m excited to show you guys what my quilt looks like! I haven’t seen it for a few months as other quilters have been passing it around and working on it.
RR Applique

 

Mini Trunk Show for Mother’s Day

MomandMeNursery

My mom (pictured above with baby Megan) was an artist. She loved doing arts and crafts projects with my sister and I. She got into candle-making, wreaths, cross-stitch, chocolate molds, and more. But her real passion became quilting. In the few years that she was a quilter, she made dozens of quilts. Most were given away to friends and family. I have a few. So in honor of mother’s day, here are some of her works of art.

MomManger

Along with being an artist, Mom was a lifelong learner. This was great for quilting because there are so many techniques available! The Christmas wall-hanging above was made with fusible webbing and tied. Years later, I hand-sewed the shapes down that were starting to peel away from the backing fabric.

MomManger Poem

I love the message of this poem. Sometimes what seems like a bad thing is really for the best. I also love that it’s in Mom’s handwriting. She kept her lines straight using a light-box. Lit from behind, a lined sheet of paper was placed underneath the white fabric she wrote on. Smart!

MomHearthHere’s another one that’s mostly fused. Mom machine quilted between the blocks and in the borders on the machine that I now use. It’s the one I learned on and inherited. This quilt hung above the fireplace in our last house. It’s a Christmas one so I intended to take it down in January the first year we were there. My husband and our housemate liked it so much they asked me to leave it up a bit longer, and that was its home spot for all the years we were there.

Another thing to point out about this piece is the skin tones. Can you see it? Mom put in different colored skin tones not only to be realistic, but also to honor her love of people from lots of different backgrounds. Even though we lived in a mostly-white Connecticut town, she her book-club, church, and quilting friends had all different skin tones. And stories. I felt so grown up when I was allowed to join their conversations.

MomSunbonnetSueI took a Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Andy quilt class with Mom. She ended up with this beautiful quilt. I ended up quitting halfway through because my applique skills were frustrating. This was machine appliqued using a zig-zag stitch and invisible thread. I wanted mine to look like the sample, which had perfect tiny black zig-zags. Yeah, black thread isn’t such a good idea for a thirteen-year-old.

I remember helping Mom decide what each character would be doing, and helping her find the embellishments. Sue’s running from bumblebee buttons. Andy’s pulling a wagon with yo-yo wheels.

Mom quilted this one by machine too. The kids are outlined and the rest is stitched-in-the-ditch. I remember the quilt shop where this class was held had limited parking. It had a sign out front that read, “Quilter’s Parking Only. Violators Will Be Stitched In The Ditch.”

MomTulipsBy the time Mom started churning out more quilt tops than she could finish, I my interest in quilting had dimmed. I’d rather be talking on the phone with my best friend for hours, waiting for the radio to play my favorite song ever, deciding which shirt would be best to wear tomorrow, and other teenage girly things.

I do remember picking up a few pieces from the long-armer and being amazed at her huge machine. It took up the whole room! I wish I knew that woman’s name now, so I could add her to the label. This tulip quilt was one of the first to be sent her way.
Mom9POkay now we’re into the baby quilts. My parents decided not to learn the gender of the baby, so there are a few quilts with both blue and pink as my Mom wondered. They picked out two names, one for a boy and one for a girl. James Patrick won out as my brother Jimmy was born. He’s shortened it to Jim and made his way to prom last weekend. Ho boy has he grown up!

MomCatsThere’s at least one more baby sized quilt I’m holding onto until my brother’s ready to have them at his own place. You know, when he’s old enough to have his own place. It’s a grandmother’s flower garden, paper-pieced and beautiful. 
MomAutumn

The last quilt I’m showing you today was made after Mom found out that her colors are Autumn inspired. (Remember this post? I’m an autumn, too!) She didn’t have a lot of fall colors in her stash or quilt collection so she challenged herself to make this one.

When she passed, it was only a top. So her friends in the local quilting group finished it… by hand. Look at this beautiful hand quilting in-between the stars. It’s dedicated to the baby. Such a work of love it takes my breath away just to look at.

MomAutumnQuilting

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, and all the mothers out there. All of this information is recalled from memory. Just know that even when your teenage daughter is rolling her eyes at you and answering every question with “fine” that they’re probably still paying attention. I was.

Break for Tire Gardening

After spending an hour looking for my new rotary blade packages, I found this in my center desk drawer. It was so smart of me to put all the new blades in one easily accessible container. Just wish I’d remembered doing it before the big search.

RotaryBlades

So I decided it was time to take a break and get some sunshine. I did a bunch of weeding and checked on the food crops we’re growing, including potatoes. Did you know that you can grow potatoes in old tires? Here’s how we’re doing it.

PotatoPlanterWe painted the tires white with cheap spray paint. The quality doesn’t matter, just trying to change the color so the tires don’t heat up as much in the sun. Then we planted the seed potatoes inside them. My husband and I aren’t very good at remembering to water our garden, so we rigged up a drip sprinkler system. That’s what the tubes are you see in the photographs. TirePlantersAs the potatoes grow, we’ll cover them with hay. Not dirt, hay. The roots grow in the dirt where we planted but the plant with the spuds will start growing above ground. Hay from a feed store will block the light and add structure for the plants to grow in.

PotatoSeedlingHere’s one of the potato plants now. When it’s taller than the tire, we’ll stack another tire on top. The stacks might be four or five high by harvesting time. Tire shops have to pay to have their old tires carted away. So our local shop is more than happy to donate them to us. PumpkinWe’re growing other food crops, too. This little guy’s a pumpkin.

CornThe corn grown from seed outside is doing well. We tried starting some inside, but they didn’t survive the transplanting. 
Carrots and Garlic

Carrots and garlic grown side-by-side. 

Alright, now that I’ve gotten a bit of sunlight and spent time with growing things, it’s time to cut some more fabric… with a fresh blade.