Friday, October 26, 2018

A Family Affair

I field a lot of curious comments from people about how I have time to make quilts when I have 4 children. Usually I say that I'm an early riser and then I can steer the conversation toward more interesting topics. This works almost all of the time. The one time it didn't, the woman sniffed, "Well. Your kids must watch A LOT of TV."

You know the lip-lick-narrowed-eyes-slow-blink that happens when you're thinking of a lot of bad words? Yep, I did that and then replied. "They don't and I don't either. That frees up a lot of time."

That used to be true. Now I have a baby girl that loves to be held. She doesn't waste time with the lip-lick-narrowed-eyes-slow-blink and proceeds directly to dramatic blotchy-face-bellow-weeping if I am too far away from her. So, I've adjusted. I do watch way more TV than I ever used to, and I sew with a baby sidekick.

My sewing space also doubles as a guest bedroom and we have a full size bed in there. My kids love to come in and lounge while I am making things. We did a lot of that this summer. I really do get up early and work. If there are things I'm considering and experimenting with, those quiet minutes of alone time are when I do it. As soon as the kids wake up, I hear them running down the stairs straight to the sewing room. That's when I multi-task. I iron a pile of blocks and visit with them. I cut some more strips to replenish the piecing bucket and tell them a story. I move blocks around on the design wall (or have them do it) and listen to them tell me about the weird dream they had.

...then they start fighting over who gets the pillows, the boys start wrestling and my little girl gets shrill because her brothers are ignoring her. That's when I shoo them upstairs for breakfast. It isn't all domestic tranquility.

This summer I saw Julie Silber post a vintage quilt on her Instagram page. (If you don't follow her, please do, you'll gain an increased love and knowledge of the history of quilting...@juliesilberquilts) After I studied the quilt, I decided to make a version for the bed in my sewing room. I was thinking of my children when I started pulling out scraps, so there are a lot of fun juvenile prints in the mix.

I constructed the quilt using newspaper as the foundation. I used the 45 degree line on my 15" ruler to make triangle templates. I use newspaper foundations quite a bit, so I have a dedicated rotary cutter that's just for paper (I mark it with tape so I don't forget). It made gigantic triangles. The newspaper was *just* long enough. A finished block was 4 of those triangles sewn together. I had to square those down to 21" using the 45 degree lines on my cutting mat. They were massive!

I finished the quilt with freehand crosshatch quilting. My prize for winning the viewer's choice in the Pantone Quilt Challenge was a cone of Aurifil thread. When I received it, I had to smile. Someone at Aurifil definitely has a sense of humor. Since the color of the year was purple, I was sent a cone of purple thread. Light Lilac to be exact. My streak of practicality is about a mile wide, so Light Lilac was the color inspiration for the quilts in this post. I pieced and quilted this with it.

I brought all of my kids with me for the photography session at a local farm. #2 and #3 played with #4 in the shade while #1 helped me hang it on the barn. It was miserably hot that day, so we went home sweaty and tired. As a mark of profound appreciation for their help, I made them all banana splits and told them that they could name the quilt. #2 blurted out "Blue Lightning" and we all agreed.

"Blue Lightning" finished at 82" x 82." It's on the bed in the sewing room where it has been quality tested by #1-4. They like it.









My mother also is a quilter and has been known to shop for me. She was in a quilt store once and saw a bolt of Tula Pink fabric in the clearance section. She bought the bolt and sent it to me. As the years have passed, I've looked at that Parisville fabric and wondered what my game plan should be. Hoard? Sell? Use?

I decided to use it. That is what fabric is for, right? It became the backing for "Blue Lightning" and also the spark for the next scrap quilt, "Riffing on a Rail." I was inspired by the leftover strips I trimmed off the backing and I thought using a rail fence motif would be an effective use of what I had left. I added dark blues, light blues, slate blues, lilacs, sage greens and dull reddish plums and kept making units. I calculated how much of the Parisville I would need for the backing and facing strips, then built the top out as far as I could take it with what I had left. I was able to get to 48" x 48."

I pieced the whole thing with Light Lilac, but I did the quilting with monofilament so I wouldn't alter any of the color work. I quilted this in a very dense freehand crosshatch pattern. It is finished with a faced edge.



Of course I had scrap strips left over, so I started string piecing half square triangles with some of the lighter values. I made about 4 of them before I realized that I hated the colors and the vibe (hello, Easter). I still liked the idea so I tried again with darker values and felt much happier with the results.

If you're wondering about construction, I used newspaper foundations again. I made them a little bigger than I needed them so I could just eyeball where that center seam would have to go. A little extra wiggle room made squaring them easy.

Once I had the top done, I joked to my husband that now I needed to decide if I should make it into a mini that we didn't need or a pillow that we didn't need. While I was thinking about it, I pressed forward and started quilting it and I had a moment of profound connection. Remember how I said that I was watching way more TV than I ever used to? Well, I try to watch things that keep my brain from rotting away to mommy mush and found a show on Netflix called "Civilizations." It's a program, narrated by Liev Schreiber, that shows art from ancient cultures. In the first episode, cave art hands are discussed. Images of hands thousands of years old are preserved in caves all over the world. Ghostly silhouettes from across time send messages of connection and presence. The handprints, backed with red ochre, are breathtaking pieces of art because they are brimming with meaning. I absolutely loved seeing them.

As I was quilting this pillow in an outward spiral, I had my hands all over it and they stood out just as starkly against the deep plums I used. I stopped thinking of it as another object that I didn't need and rather as an expressive message of self. I need to do a better job of explaining to my children why I choose to spend so much time in the process of making and that the value of the finish is so much more than another object of utility. Someday when I am gone, my quilts will not be. I hope that my family feels and sees my hands through the images/objects that I leave behind.

This pillow is 20" x 20."



I participate in the Curated Quilts mini challenge every time I'm able. I enjoy trying new things in a small scale or revisiting things I liked in a different format or color way. The last prompt was "house." I felt compelled to make something that immediately came to my mind.

As many of you are aware, I live in Iowa. This summer a girl named Mollie Tibbetts went for an evening run in a small town about 45 minutes away from us. She never came back from that run. Her family and the community banded together and distributed thousands of missing person fliers. I saw her face at the grocery store, the library, the gas station and at the state fair. Through the repeated exposure to her face, our connection to her grew. She felt like family. My children knew her name.

We learned with great sadness that the massive hunt ended with the discovery of her body in a cornfield.

In the mini, "For Mollie," I wanted to honor her and express the sense of loss I felt. I left the light on in every house and brought her back from that run in the only way I was able to.

14" x 14."




Thank you so much for visiting the blog and reading this post. I appreciate the connection that the blogging medium gives us and for the mutual loves we share. Have a great day!








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30 comments:

  1. I, too, am asked how I make what I make after working full-time (our only is grown). I wish I could say not much tv but that's usually on in the background. Great job for keeping your cool and multi-tasking. If we really want to do something (quilt, knit) there's usually a way with good time management. My husband likes to drive me to quilt stores on the weekend but it's hard explaining to him that to balance that I need time to actually use the fabric!

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    1. Now that's a great husband, Lisa! A supportive family helps so much. I hope you got some good time in this weekend!

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  2. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. I love the quilts. Your kids sees the hard work of creativity first hand. I have a hard time venturing into making a quilt I can't totally visualize first. Guess it is fear of failure and ruining fabric. I always love to see your quilts and your quilting.

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    1. Thank you, Linda. I used to get frozen on the plan, too. What breaks that log jam is to start trusting that you can fix it. Using scraps helps too...then you don't feel like you've wasted anything. I have a box of things "the parts department" that didn't really work for the intended purpose. I can pull them out later and try them in another application. That's where the Easter string blocks ended up. Maybe they'll be a hotpad someday. Who knows?

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  3. I love your quilts! The second one, Riffing on a Rail, reminds me of the Gee's Bend quilts which I also love. You make great color choices.

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    1. Thank you! The Gee's Bend quilts are a national treasure!

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  4. Your quilts always inspire me! I want to make them all! I know if you lived closer we would be friends! I too have 4 children though they are all now grown and have their own families. I can remember those precious moments of doing something for myself and that made them all the more special. Your house quilt had me in tears.

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    1. Thank you, Kelly! We are friends! If you lived closer we'd be in-person sewing buddies for sure!!

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  5. Beautiful work and words. Thanks for the inspiration. (About the TV comment : Funny how some people get all judgmental when it’s none of their business!)

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    1. Thank you, Colleen. I am constantly surprised by the things that people let out of their mouths.

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  6. Gosh I enjoy your reveal posts like this. While I love both of your larger quilts, the feeling and 'story' behind the pillow and Mollie's quilt were very touching. I so appreciate the thoughtfulness behind everything you make.

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    1. Thank you, Debbie. I've been thinking about the process post question you posed on IG. I think writing about my thoughts/intentions is my version of the process photo. Either way, I love the peek behind the curtain.

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  7. Thank you for sharing this look into your creative process and family life. Being present for your children and including them in your quiltmaking helps them develop respect and love for what your hands create.

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    1. Thank you, Marla! My kids know way more about quilts and color than they ever wanted to. This summer when the older three were entering a coloring contest, they ran downstairs to get my color wheel. I was one proud mama!

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  8. Just pay no attention to the snarky comment about how you are raising your children. None of her business! I am so sorry your community had to experience such a tragedy as Mollie (we all followed it on national news), and your tribute to her and her family is quite touching. Carry on your creativity - you are creating caring children and will leave a legacy far beyond your stitchwork.

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    1. Thanks, Barb! I can absorb lots of negative comments about my quilts with hardly a blip on the radar, but when it comes to my family the gloves are off. Now that I've said that....😀....kindness counts, especially in the wake of tragedy.

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  9. Having a new quilt for the guest bed already quality tested sounds pretty wonderful. It sure glows against the side of the red barn. Good for you for using up the Tula Pink fabric; there are definitely fabrics that I have on hand that I have pondered how to use. I definitely can see your hand in you makes and love the moment of connection you had. Definitely a story worth repeating so your whole family can see that care, and love, and you in your work. What a powerful mini for Molli. It gave me shivers when I saw the last photo in the series.

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    1. Thanks, Yvonne. I was probably thinking of the beautiful new quilt on your bed when I decided to update the one in my sewing room! 😊

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  10. I have enjoyed your work for a while and I thoroughly enjoyed reading more about your process and your story. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you, Sarah. I'm so appreciative that you took the time to read it

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  11. You are such a great story teller and I have enjoyed following you these years. You pour so much thought into your making.My own children (3, adults) probably cannot remember a time I didn't have fabric and sewing machine out. I'm making them and my grandchildren quilts to have a piece of me when I am no longer here. It means much to me. The uncool comments sucks. And Netflix Civilizations is interesting. Create on.

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    1. Thanks, Mary! Have you seen the picture floating around social media of the funeral of someone's grandma? They had all the pews decorated with her quilts. I think that will be the last item on my bucket list. 😉

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  12. Great quilts! I am especially touched by your quilt for Mollie. The grey scale photo is great.

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    1. Thanks, Barb. I was lucky to have just what I needed in my stash. This quilt was meant to be!

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  13. What a lovely post to start my day. I love the idea of your kids on the bed while you sew and all the questions (I remember those with my kiddos). They will have many fond memories of those days, I'm sure. I saw your pillow on Insta, but this post makes it even more lovely. Your quilt for Mollie brought tears to my eyes. Here in Minnesota, we kept a close eye on that story as well. What a thoughtful mini to make for her. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you, Wendy! Oh, the questions! With one of my sons it is more "surviving an interrogation" than "conversation." I'm so glad he is curious, though. I am sure that you saw a lot of Mollie posters in Minnesota. I still feel so heartbroken over the result.

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  14. I LOVE your quilts!! and you know what - if your kids watch a little tv... so be it - you be you , and do what you do - cuz it seems you and your fmaily are very happy!! I like that over... if your doing it *right* ha ha!!

    PS - I have 3 boys and totally understand the pillow fighting and jumping over the couches !

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    1. As long as it doesn't descend into punching and tears, I can handle some arguments about pillows. They're good kids. I'm one lucky lady!

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  15. I just love your quilts and your stories! And of course, For Mollie made me cry.
    ~ Tracy

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    1. Thanks Tracy! I had some moments while I made it, too. I was listening to her running playlist on Spotify. 😕

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