Friday, April 17, 2015

Half of My Heart Quilts - An Update

What a thrill today to be able to spend the afternoon with my favorite  MN second graders.... the ones who with me created the "Half of My Heart" quilts that were sent to a deployed couple serving in Iraq this past February.

We had a big surprise for the kids...our soldier couple, Brian & Jenna, were actually in town visiting family and planned a stop at the school to see them! 

Brian & Jenna also had another big surprise for the kids...they brought them the gift of an official American flag that was flown on the base in Iraq, and a handmade plaque with a certificate of authenticity. 

The kids got to ask all kinds of questions about what it's like to be in the military as well as being deployed ...and of course a few silly questions asked as only second graders know how to do... ie: Do you like pink fluffy unicorns?  Are you Australian? (Brian is from Georgia and has a bit of a southern drawl y'all) , Do you have to wear your uniform to bed too? 

So exciting for the kids to get to meet Brian & Jenna in person ( they had met Jenna via Skype once before while she was in Iraq)  They brought their quilts along too so of course we had to get a picture of everyone!

Such a special I'm sure these kids will remember for a long time to come... I know I will. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Do you....EQ? You Should!

On newsstands now!  Check out my latest quilt in McCall's Quilting!

McCall's Quilting May June 2015
Made from Kona Cotton Solids in shades of purple with just a dash of green.

This is the one of the very first quilts I ever designed using EQ7 quite some time ago.   I had just upgraded my EQ5 program to EQ7 and was practicing away, in fact, I'm pretty sure I have it saved in approximately 47 different color ways.  This quilt is made from two of the blocks that can be found in the Block Library.   If you've been contemplating EQ7, I say "Go For It!!"  The program comes with an entire Fabric Library too, but you're also able to upload jpeg files of the actual fabrics you'll be using, so you really get a good look at what your quilt will look like when it's finished.
EQ has lots of tutorials as well to learn their program.  You can also create your own original quilt labels to print on your inkjet printer!

EQ7 has a gazillion (maybe more) blocks and layouts to choose from as well as options to print instructions for rotary cutting or foundation piecing, as well as printable templates.  For the star block in this quilt I was able to use a Tri Recs ruler (not to be confused with T Rex) so completing blocks went pretty quickly.  

Friday, March 27, 2015

My Fantasia Quilt is Complete!

Two rows of two and a half inch squares sewn together to make an outer border, some simple quilting and then prairie points make this  quilt complete.  I am totally in love with this quilt! 
I found a tutorial online for making the prairie points  using a width of fabric instead of cutting each square separately.  The directions were really easy to follow and they really didn't take me long to make...and of course using a width of fabric, as long as you made your cuts in the appropriate places your points will be very evenly spaced.  The only thing I didn't like was that I felt like I had more bulk  using the folded width of fabric  when I was doing the final stitching.  I really struggled to make it lie flat on the back....and that was frustrating.
One hint, if you make a quilt and want to add the prairie points as a finishing touch, make sure you let your longarmer know so that she/he doesn't quilt all the way to the edge of the quilt.  You really need to leave a  minimum of a half an inch or even an inch so that you've got room to turn that seam under and it's really hard to do if the quilt has been quilted too close to the edge.  The last thing you want to do is pick out quilting stitches. (ask me how I know this....fortunately I gave myself room on this one!)

I printed and stitched on a very special label and the quilt is on it's way to provide love and comfort to someone very special. 
Thank you Sara Lawson (@SewSweetness) for the opportunity to create something lovely with your new fabric line and to honor your Grandpa.  Love you to the moon and back, my sweet friend.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fantasia (Art Gallery Fabrics) by Sara Lawson @ Sew Sweetness

Last week I got this great package in the mail from my friend, Sara Lawson at Sew Sweetness.  Inside was a collection of fat quarters from her new fabric line with Art Gallery Fabrics called "Fantasia". I absolutely love the colors in this line and kept them stacked up on my sewing table for inspiration while I decided just what to make with them.

Even though this is a fabric line, designed to coordinate, I decided that I'd like to step a bit outside of my comfort zone and create something scrappy.  I don't do scrappy very well...and even when I attempt to be scrappy, I have to be somewhat organized in my scrapiness.  I mean....what if you're being all scraptastic and you end up with two of the same fabrics side by side in your quilt?   What then?

Well, as seems to be the norm for me, whether processing how I should quilt something...or deciding on a design....for some reason my inspirations arrive at approximately 3am. Just like clockwork...  I'll wake up with an idea, cutting or stitching in my mind until I think I have it figured out.  Often I'll reach over to look at my phone for the time although I'm not sure why....and it's always in the three o'clock hour.  Always.  Weird, huh?  When does your inspiration come?

The other night....or should I say early in the morning...right on schedule came the idea for what I wanted to do with Sara's fabrics.  I woke up thinking about a block that I had pinned on Pinterest a long time ago that I thought would work so great for a scrappy quilt.  I was imaging her fabrics in this scrappy block.  (one look at my phone showed the time as 3:07am)  I fell back to sleep thinking about what color I might use for the background.

small squares are 2.5"
larger squares are 4.5" with 2.5" square sewn diagonally on opposing sides 

Yesterday I pulled out my stash of solids to see what I might already  have to use for the background.  I auditioned four different solid colors.   Cream (some of the Fantasia line have a cream background), Navy...hmmm...didn't really trip my trigger....and White (expected).  Then I found this teal or jade shade of green and I thought it would be awesome.





But then a funny thing happened on the way to the cutting table.  As I was preparing the fat quarters to cut into 2.5" strips, I noticed this other stack of solids that I plan to use on another project....and there was this shade of Butter Yellow that just spoke to me "Psssst, I think I would look better than the green"....and well....when fabric talks to just have to listen.

That print you can see on the top of the stack has the sweetest unicorn that I just could not cut up into a 2.5" I decided to fussy cut those into 4.5" squares and was able to get five of them.  Look how cute these blocks turned out!

I alternated the fussy cut unicorn blocks with the scrappy block, three blocks across and three down.

Clearly Mr Bone Jangles approves.

 I absolutely love how this quilt turned out....but as I stitched it together I realized that I had sewn two of the very same pink fabrics side by side! TWO PINKS! SIDE.BY.SIDE, PEOPLE!  For about five minutes, I told myself I would just have to live with it....but I know from experience....that come three o'clock in the morning...I'd be awake imagining just how I would remove one of the squares to replace it with another I went ahead and just did it.  Now, I am contemplating adding a yellow border...followed by a scrappy border of leftover 2.5" squares.  Unless of course, I'm awake at 3am with some other inspiration.

So funny as I was sewing this quilt, I was listening to an Irish radio station and what did they play but The Unicorn Song by the Irish Rovers.  I grew up listening to them as my Mom was a big fan!  I was always so sad about the unicorns missing the Ark.   I'm attaching the link so you can have a listen too!

                                                   Irish Rovers - Unicorn Son

My beautiful friend, Sara - Sew Sweetness
Love her!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Every Quilt Has a Story

I've made a lot of quilts over the years. More often than not...with a purpose, or a recipient in mind.   Most of the time there is an emotional investment.... a "piece of me"  in each quilt.  Whether it's taking the time to think about what the receiver's favorite colors are or a fabric that might remind me of them...and as I create their quilt...the thoughts about how my quilt might make them feel when I give it to them.

During this project to collect quilts in honor of Kayla Rose, I've thought a lot about the receivers of the quilts we've collected and how their hearts may be touched by receiving these gifts of love.  Adolescents, waging a battle against a horrible disease, given a gift by a total stranger who donated their time and talents to provide a little comfort in their time of need. 

It was also during this project that I thought about trying to create a quilt for Kayla's mom, Bobbi, my former classmate and friend.  An opportunity to give her a quilt of her own to remind her of how we honored Kayla's 25th Birthday.  I knew I wanted it to be something special...more than just her favorite colors, or something that matched the sofa.  I decided on a pixel quilt using a black and white photo of Kayla.  (see if you'd like to make a quilt like this...can't recommend them enough)

Decision made, pixels arranged into a pleasing pattern, six shades of Kona gray and the color snow cut into 1177 pieces. As I was cutting out the pieces, I happened to glance up and there perched in the bushes outside my studio window was a beautiful red cardinal.  I knew then I was making exactly the right quilt.  

Did I mention there were 1177 pieces? My quilt would finish at 64x64.  Eight inch squares...eight blocks across...eight blocks down. 64 blocks total. A typical block might look something like this.

As I sat stitching late one night I had just completed about the top two thirds of the quilt.  I had that section draped across my longarm frame, right behind my chair.  It was about 1am in the morning...I was tired...and I was convinced that I had just spent a whole lot of time working on a quilt that would be nothing more than a graphic collection of shades of gray because I just couldn't see anything.  Andi, at YouPatch, had encouraged me to take pics and share with her as I worked, so I laid the quilt down on the floor and pulled out my phone.  Clicking the camera icon, I was not prepared for what was about to appear.  There she was ...Kayla....looking back at me with her beautiful smile. 

I heard her say "Maybe you couldn't see me ...but I've been here all along"...and I was a blubbering mess as I realized then that was the story that would go with this quilt.  A reminder to her Mom...we may not see them once they've gone...but they continue to be right there with us.  I sent that pic of to Andi at YouPatch with a message that said "I'm a blubbering mess"...thankfully she's in Australia, so she wasn't sleeping....and wrote me back immediately, sweetly encouraging me to go get some sleep.  I woke up the next morning knowing I couldn't do anything else until this quilt was complete.

The next hurdle was how to quilt it.  I wanted to enhance the beauty that was already there.  Here's a couple of  close  up shots of the quilting I chose...or should I say more accurately...chose me.

The hardest part of this quilt was literally wrapping it up into a box and taking it to the post office.  So much of my heart and soul went into this project.  I'm happy to say she arrived safe and sound today and even happier to say that I got to FaceTime with Bobbi as she opened the quilt.  What an experience....both of us in tears. 

This entire project has been such an amazing experience.  On Saturday Bobbi will take all of these quilts to Children's Hospital.  I'm so incredibly thankful for everyone of you who donated a quilt or quilt top. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Patriotism - Second Grade Style

Before Christmas break, we spent some time again with son John's Second Grade class in Minnesota. 

It is my belief that all children need to know the value of GLITTER at an early age, so each second grader got to paint a scrolled wooden photo frame white and sprinkle it with snowy glitter before adding some  sparkly crystals as well.   While they're working on their frames, we set up a photo booth with lots of silly props, likes hats and glasses, mustaches and the like and the kids get to dress up for fun photos.  This year each child was also photographed wearing sparkly 2015 sunglasses and held a sign that read "My Future's So Bright..."

John and I had to take a turn...we had to!
You might remember that last year the kids drew special pictures on fabric for me that was then used to create a quilt for a deployed soldier, named Michael Niedzwiecki, to thank him for his military service.  It was such a great experience that we just had to do it again.
Michael with his special quilt.
When we were in early discussions about who might receive our quilt gift this year when John received an email about a currently deployed husband and wife, relatives of one of his co-workers. Both of them deployed to Iraq, but yet on two different bases several hours from each other.   We took that as a sign that they should be our recipients and got to work.  The kids, as usual, drew some fabulous patriotic pictures with the message "Thank you for your service".  Here's a few of their drawings.

Did you have any idea that second graders were so artistic?
The dilemma for me  in designing this we wanted to honor this "couple"...but knowing they weren't deployed to the same base raised the question "Which one gets the quilt?"  Unable to choose only one of them, I came up with a plan to include them both.  I actually created two quilts.  Each quilt represents a half a heart...and when put side by side creates a full heart.
The kids got to see the quilts today for the first time and they were so excited! 
As they viewed the quilt there were lots of "Oooh's and Ahhh's" as well as one "Holy Cow, that's just sic!"   (which is apparently a good thing)
The kids checking out the quilts and looking for their blocks.
Our Second grade artists!

With Mr Barnes & Me
The quilts are being boxed up and mailed out and we are all so excited for them to arrive to our adopted soldiers.  We truly are so thankful for their service and their sacrifice and will jump up and down with happiness when they can bring their quilts together as ONE HEART!!
 You can bet we'll have a follow up blog post when we hear from our soldiers!
My most favorite second grade teacher.  His love for "his kids" is so evident.
Love him!