Wednesday, May 9, 2018


"Iowa nice" is really a thing. If you'd like to meet friendly, polite and easygoing people, please come to our state.

....just skip the parking lot at my children's elementary school.

Car line is an adventure. One snowy morning, one of my Iowa nice boys snapped and shouted from the backseat at the long line of brake lights in front of us, "WHY ARE YOU DOUBLE PARKING?!? BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO DROP YOUR PRECIOUS CHILD OFF AT THE FRONT DOOR WE'RE ALL GOING TO BE LATE!!!"  Thankfully, there was plenty of time to unpack that statement and calm down a bit before we got to a safe unloading spot. After I assured the boys that I thought they were both precious *and* capable, they got their hug and started the trudge to class. That morning was the start of a new family joke. I am now rated on how closely I can get them to the front door. Some mornings they call themselves 'precious.' Other mornings they are 'semi-precious.' It's a funny way to start the day with a smile, but it works!

Hearing 'semi-precious' most mornings was the spark for me to make a series of jewel inspired quilts. I always play along with the Pantone color of the year (ultraviolet), so I had the color inspiration to boot. It was a new way of thinking about creating quilts when my mind was completely focused on shape and color. I had so much fun exploring both of them.

The first is "Trillion Cut." This is an 18" square pillow that I made with ultraviolet in an analogous color scheme. This is a miniaturized version of a quilt (Love at First Glow) that I made last year. I constructed it using improvisational piecing on top of paper triangle templates that I made. It is quilted with monofilament thread.

Next is "Twilight Glitter Sparkles." This was named by my preschooler daughter in a combo that I'm pretty sure is a mashup of My Little Pony and Trolls. It is 48" x 69." This is just a quilt top for now. My sewing machine is in the shop and I've been sewing on my mom's old Pfaff for the last couple of months. It's a great little machine, but it just doesn't have the harp space to do a pivoting design on a bigger quilt. I'm still debating about whether I'll quilt it when I have my machine back or pay someone with a long arm to do it. This quilt uses ultraviolet in an analogous color scheme as well. I free pieced the blocks in different sizes for variety.

I challenged myself to come up with different friends for ultraviolet. I read about a square color scheme and decided to give it a try. I used my color wheel to choose 4 main colors evenly spaced around in a square shape. I spent a long time with the color selection, looking carefully in different lights at different times of the day. I am pleased with the result and that it still reads as a purple quilt. This is "Emerald Cut." It is 40" x 60" and is quilted with monofilament thread. The blocks are all free pieced, then squared down to a consistent size.

I had plenty of strips left over after piecing the last quilt. There's no time like the present to deal with coordinating scraps, so I sat down with the bucket and started sewing the strips together. This project used up most of the scraps I had generated in the last three quilts. This is "Pixelated Scraps" and it is 31" x 31." I quilted it in a crosshatch pattern with monofilament thread and finished it with a faced edge.

Last is "Diamond Split." This is a small 24" x 24" quilt that I made with ultraviolet in a split complementary color scheme. The diamonds are improvisationally pieced.  This used Kona bright periwinkle, cerise, wasabi and berry. It is also quilted with monofilament thread.

Since my last post, I have safely delivered a baby girl (the big kids call her "Babyness"). There were some bumps, but it all worked out in the end and we are both healthy and happy. She is the sweetest, most content little girl you could ever imagine and is greatly loved. Her favorite thing to do is play the smiling game. Whenever she initiates the game with her older siblings, they'll bellow "She's passing out smiles like candy!!" and everyone else will come running to smile and coo at her. It warmed my heart to see her start the smiling game with some other children in the pew ahead of us at church. I'm glad that everyone in her little world smiles back. That's exactly how it should be.

These quilts were fun to make and a great creative outlet. But, make no mistake, these smiling kids are my greatest treasure.

If you'd like to take a look at the collection of quilts created with Pantone Ultraviolet, you can find them at No Hats in the House or Bryan House Quilts.

Linking up to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Announcement

I know that this post has been a long time in coming. Part of me wants to apologize for that, but the other part of me won't with the hope you understand. Some stories are harder to tell than others.

I've said before that I gravitate toward improvisational quilting because I love all the reacting and expressing that is part of the process. Often I end up with a piece that says so much more than I ever intended. Such is the case with this first quilt. I pulled out a whole bunch of red fabrics to play with this summer just because I noticed that I had two duplicate spools of red thread. I started piecing a few rows of improv triangles and had the thought that the quilt needed a little more sparkle. I brainstormed a few ideas on how to add an accent color, and finally decided on surrounding a tiny triangle of gold with more red and insetting them into the rows. I had to laugh because I was also simultaneously brainstorming a way to share the news with my friends and family that we were expecting again. I figured that the pregnant triangles I was piecing into the quilt were good enough for both jobs so I posted a picture of this quilt on social media as a way to share our news.

"The Announcement" finishes at 38" x 56." (The pregnancy will "finish" somewhere in mid to late February.) I used Quilter's Dream Request batting and matchstick quilted it with Aurifil invisible thread so I wouldn't alter any of the color work.

This pregnancy was long awaited and very slow in coming.

When I was a little girl, my siblings were teenagers. Sometimes my parents needed to have a talk that was necessary for older ears, but not so appropriate for mine. Whenever that happened, my mother would stand in front of the kitchen window, gasp in wonder and say, "Look, Jill! Your cat is chasing a butterfly!" I would excitedly run out the door in breathless anticipation to see such a sight and my mom and dad could have a private conversation with the bigger kids.

I've recalled that experience often over the last couple of years and I've decided that there is no better metaphor for infertility than "chasing the butterfly." The process is often long, unpredictable and powered by mere glimpses of what could be. It also feels like an exercise in futility on a lot of days. It can be hard when something so beautiful is so elusive.

I created two quilts exploring this theme. The first, "Chasing the Butterfly I," I made at my mom's house this summer. I used the idea of an Exquisite block from Gwen Marston's book Liberated Quiltmaking II. I blanked out some of the blocks and added an additional color to the scheme to create a lighted path to pull the eye through the quilt. I hand tied the quilt on the long drive home, using the polka dot backing as my marking structure and tying the knots from the back. I used a variegated Valdani thread, so there are tiny winks of color on the front of the quilt that I am especially happy with. The quilt finishes at 39" x 54."

I tried another approach for "Chasing the Butterfly II." I made a full scale drawing of the butterfly, then made myself templates to construct the chunks. I ended up using needle-turn applique to attach everything to a muslin foundation. If I had it to do over again, I would piece it. The curves were gentle enough that this would have been totally possible, and I could have avoided some of the shadowing that I got from the darker red fabrics peeking through the golds. Nonetheless, I still like it. The quilt finishes at 24" x 24." I used invisible thread to matchstick quilt this and it is finished with a faced edge.

I have been a patient at the fertility clinic in our local hospital for the past two years, and I am thankful for all the support and love that has been shown to me during my time there. We were initially very optimistic because after my first appointment, with all of the data gained from the tests and with the treatments prescribed, I was able to become pregnant very quickly.

But then I wasn't. And I wasn't. And I wasn't again.

I have failed at many things in my life, but one thing I have never failed at was getting back up again after a blow. I almost couldn't do it this time. Sitting in the doctor's office with a brand new diagnosis of recurrent miscarriage was one of the lowest points of my life. The last gasp of my faith after the third loss had been to pray for my doctor to know how to help us. At the end of our discussion with a list of expensive and invasive options for my husband and I to consider, I wondered if it would be possible. When the appointment was over, I waited for her to stand up. She didn't. She stared hard at the carpet. She checked my file on the computer and stared at the carpet some more. Finally she said, "I shouldn't need to check this again, but I feel like I need to. Can we add on one more test to your blood work today?" It was the easiest test suggested from my list of options so of course I agreed. Thankfully it revealed a problem, easily fixable with time and medication, and after 3 1/2 years of hoping and trying, we finally had a baby on the way.

"Trying" is my quilt story of the journey through recurrent miscarriage to a miracle baby girl. I used the idea of a wide and narrow log cabin setting with pieced strips to make stylized, unfinished positives. I really love how the finished block resembles a flower. Looking at this quilt isn't a sad experience for me. In it I see that my faith has been tested, but in the end it flowered and made a safe place for my little butterfly to finally land. This quilt finishes at 48" x 48." I used Quilter's Dream Request batting and did straight line quilting with Aurifil invisible thread. It is finished with a faced edge.

Just the other day, my older son rubbed my belly and told me that he just knew that this little baby would be special. "How do you know that?" I asked him. "Because we had to wait so long for her," he said. I'm so excited for her to be born."

Me too.

My next post will not be six months in coming, I promise. Right now I'm on baby watch and nesting with the Pantone Color of the Year. In the meantime, I'll share three minis I also completed in the last few months.

"Curated Cabins," 16" x 16." This one was made for the log cabin prompt from Curated Quilts.

"The Doctor Pepper Sunshiney Pineapple," 12" x 12." I made this one for inclusion in a group birthday gift for a friend. The brief was to include everything citrus. When I asked if a bottle of Dr. Pepper (her favorite) was going to be included, I was told we couldn't put it in because it didn't match the colors.  That was a challenge I couldn't pass up. Mwah-ha-ha! Look what matches now!! My contribution to the gift was this mini and a bottle of Dr. Pepper.

"Reining in My Exuberance," 15" x 15." This was a mini that I made for the minimalist prompt from Curated Quilts.

 Linking up to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.