Friday, April 24, 2015

TGIF - trust, gratitude, inspiration, and faith

Have you read this book? It's awesome. Seriously. So much good stuff.

I love the chapter on Joy and Gratitude in which Brene mentions that she used to do a TGIF post every Friday on her blog.  She would write about what she was Trusting, what she was Grateful for, what Inspires her, and how she was practicing her Faith.  She did this because gratitude has to be a practice in order to bring us joy.

I LOVE this idea. Unfortunately I came a little late to the party and she hasn't done those posts in a couple of years. But I thought I would start doing them here on my blog. So in the spirit of being authentic and brave, here is my TGIF:

Trust -  I am trusting that a person I have gone to for help will actually be able to help me with an exhausting and heartbreaking struggle.

Gratitude -  I am profoundly grateful today that my college daughter was not hurt in her car accident this past week, that my sister was there to help and comfort her, and that my dad (whose car she was driving) was so kind and generous about the whole thing.

Inspiration - Quilting is inspiring me right now. Associating with so many talented people, both in person and over social media has really helped me aspire to improve my skills and express myself more fully in this medium.  (If you are wondering where all my quilting posts have gone, I've moved them to my new quilting blog -

Faith - I am practicing my faith by studying the gospels and finding new insights in the stories and parables. Not taking these familiar texts for granted but really looking at them to see how they might challenge me in my day to day life and understanding of Christ.

I would love to hear what your TGIF reflections are.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Twin House Quilts

Once upon a time Debbie Grifka of Esch Quilts posted a Moda Bake Shop tutorial for this quilt:

It's called Neighborhood Charm and is such a great modern baby quilt. I love the bold graphic design and the movement of the negative space.

Some time later,  both my parents and my sister Michelle were moving. And while moving is a common occurrence in my life, the rest of my family is fairly stationary so it was kind of a big deal. Since I was far away in Turkey and couldn't help with the packing/unpacking or the extensive remodel that my sister's new house required, I decided to turn this cute baby quilt into two twin-size matching quilts (doesn't that make them twin twins?).

My graph paper and I got to work extending Debbie's little neighborhood of houses into a whole suburb.  And then armed with a handful of Moda's Juggling Summer charm packs, I started building houses.

Putting the white corners on each charm results in some waste triangles. But with an extra seam I found I could create tiny one inch HSTs which I pieced together to make a border.
And after making rows and rows and rows of houses with carefully spaced empty lot white squares -
I got them both put together. They are identical except for the color of border and what I quilted in the empty squares. My sister's had a deep purple border and I stitched a picket fence and flowers in the empty space.
My parents' had a rust red border and I quilted trees into those blank spaces. I don't have as detailed a picture of that one but hopefully you can see them well enough here:
Hmm... hard to see because this shot was taken after a washing but I tried several different types of trees.

Here's Helga (my Viking) quilting away on Michelle's:

I waited until our family reunion instead of sending them in the mail just because I wanted to see them open them. (That is pretty much the best part of giving away a quilt, right?)  So here are the twin twins:

For the backs I used some wonderful Turkish fabric I had picked up in my final fabric shopping spree. Turkish fabric is 90 inches wide and makes amazing backing. Right before I left I found several fabrics with English text on them.
The text is more visible in these label shots:

I used some pre-printed quilt labels I had ordered and just a raw edge applique before quilting. I'm not super happy with the result and in the future will attach a finished edge label after quilting.  My sister's is called, "Keep Calm and Re-model On," and my parents' is "Hearth and Home."

I have never made the same quilt twice. And I'm not sure I will again but I'm glad I did it this way - both at the same time. And that I quilted both the negative space and the borders uniquely for each quilt.

After our fun family reunion, both quilts went home to their new houses - to live happily ever after.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Another small finish- improv scrappy quilted pillow

I decided to try my hand at another popular non-quilt project in the quilting world - pillow covers. And since I had an awesome baby sister with a birthday coming up AND some darling scraps from my current big quilt project, I figured that the stars were aligned.

Here is the sister:
She's the second from the left and the youngest.

And here is the pillow:

The fabric line is Bluebird Park by Moda.  It has the cutest little hedgehogs (which is the sole reason I bought it.) Look closely - see them in that orange piece in the bottom left quadrant? There were hedgehogs in Turkey that lived near the base housing and once you've seen those little spiny potatoes, you just can't NOT love them. We used to go looking for them at night. You can see a picture of my mom holding one in this post.

For my big quilt I'm using a jelly roll and layer cake of this line for a fun envelope block quilt using a Missouri Star tutorial. I'll post it when it's finished.  I did a piano key border for the quilt and the leftovers made a great backing. I was even brave enough to put a zipper in. (Yay me!)

I used straight lines and a large spiral swirl for the main block and then did some fun mini swirls and pearls for the negative space. I was pretty pleased with the way the quilting turned out. It's nice to see improvement! (See the hedgehogs?)

This sister has never received a full size quilt from me although I did make her a fun wall quilt when she moved to Texas. (Hey, I guess this one was actually my first mini. Hm... Didn't realize that.)

So although this isn't a full quilt either, (someday Wendy, I promise) it was fun to give her something quilty for her birthday. My mom was visiting us and then visiting her, so she was my delivery girl. So via two airports and a plane ride, it got safely to its new home.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Quilted name tag

Have I mentioned that I'm serving as the Vice President for my local modern quilt guild?  No? Well, it wasn't exactly intentional but after I got roped in committed to it, I've found it very rewarding. I started attending this guild in January of 2014 when it was held in Henderson at Quiltique. It was a fairly robust group then. But through the months and a location change to the Christmas Goose on the west side of town, the attendance dwindled until at last December's meeting there were only 5 of us. Thus the 'nomination' to the 2015 board.

But I'm happy to report that things have really turned around for the guild. Our membership has exploded and we're almost standing room only in our meetings. I love all the ladies on the board and am really enjoying being a part of leading this vibrant group of quilters. I'm in charge of membership as well as swaps and challenges for the group. Our first challenge was to make a name tag. Here's what I did:

I started with a small quilt sandwich of white fabric, batting and black fabric.  I didn't want to piece or applique the letters and had some metal letters left from my paper scrapbooking days so I tacked those on. Then I raw edge appliqued some small square scraps from Geoffrey's black and white quilt along with a fussy cut from my favorite Turkish fabric. Don't you just love those tulips in the bicycle basket? This effectively quilted the layers together.  I added a thin binding of red polka dot. Thin binding is harder to work with my usual 2.5 inch binding. A couple of my mitered corners are less than perfect (by a lot).  But it is good to try new things right?

I thought the letters needed something to finish them so I added a small knot of ribbon to each one. Then I made a double fold strap out of scraps and attached it to the back. I am glad that I attached the straps to each corner rather than the center like a lanyard because it lays flat and straight when I wear it.

I presented the challenge in our February meeting and showed mine as an example. The members who wanted to participate brought theirs to show in the March meeting. We even had a special raffle drawing for those who made a name tag. Here is all our tags up on the design wall together:

I loved seeing all the different ideas and creative techniques.

P.S. I started chatting with a couple of ladies in the check out line at Kohls the other day. The subject of names came up and one of them was bemoaning how she didn't like her name - Ann, because it was so old-fashioned. I shared that my name, Ida LaVern, was even more so.  She agreed and commented that my parents had really screwed me up!  Ha ha!  I forgave her because she let me use her menswear coupon which got me two ties for free. :)   And I've never hated my names or thought that my parents were unkind in giving them to me. And with my new nametag, I think my name looks pretty darn modern!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Meaning of Military Life.. . at least, my military life.

  I find myself living mostly among civilians again. And being the new girl in town, I often hear myself repeating that totally insufficient explanatory phrase, "We're a military family." Usually it's in response to an inquiry of why we moved here, what we were doing living in Turkey before that, or why we only expect to be here in Vegas for two years.  Sometimes it's in response to the question of what my husband does.

I often wonder what people think when they hear that I'm a military wife.  I'm sure of one thing, though. They have no idea what those four words mean.  They might think they do, kind of like the captain of the Titanic thought he saw something in the water ahead. But they don't.

So with full acknowledgement that I don't represent military wives or families and that everyone's experiences are different, here are a few thoughts on what it really means to be military.

It means my life is lived in segments book-ended by moves.  Any memory of any event must first be retrieved from the segment to which it belongs.  This happened in Turkey, that birthday was the one in Utah.  And I can't always easily remember where we were living when this child was baptized or when we attended this event. Locations too. Sometimes a place will be mentioned, a store or restaurant, and the image that comes to my mind will be from the wrong mental map. The sushi place in Florida rather than the one in Texas, for example.

Being a military wife means making friends over and over again. I've never had much trouble making friends but as I get older I find it harder to muster the energy to build yet another temporary friendship.  Friendships with other military women are easier to create. They understand that time is always short. The natural evolution of a friendships has to be sped up.  Military women have room in their lives for new friends. They are almost always living away from extended family and their BFFs from high school just like I am. And they know a successful assignment means building a support system, even if you just did that two years ago at your last base.

Non-military women are harder. They rarely intend to be unkind but they often take long months of casual acquaintanceship before they really notice you as a potential friend candidate. And they often are firmly rooted with fully developed family and friend relationships already filling their lives. These women do not need your friendship. Even when they figure out that you are friend material, they are hesitant to invest in a friendship that will only end. I don't blame them for this. I can't promise a worthwhile reward on that investment. But it can still feel like rejection.

Moving also means re-building the lives of your kids. Every time. There is no possibility of them staying with the same piano teacher, baseball league or anything else for their whole childhood. Not only do your kids need to make new friends at each assignment, which may require your facilitation, but they also need to make a new life. Not all opportunities will exist in all places. Just because I found an amazing theater arts group for my daughter in Utah doesn't mean I'll be able to find something similar in Florida. Sometimes they have to give up something they really like just because it just doesn't carry over well into the next location. And it means that they probably won't become the child expert/champion/overachiever that is so lauded in today's society.

After our third Air Force move I made the decision to primarily homeschool my kids. Honestly it was and continues to be the biggest sacrifice I have ever made. I did it for a number of complex reasons but one of those reasons was so that moving would not involve the pain of changing schools over and over again.  I wanted to give my kids as much stability as I could create in a lifestyle largely devoid of it. I wanted their peers and buddies to be their siblings instead of 30 other kids their same age who they won't see again after the next PCS cycle. Ten years later I can look back and see that my decision has made a positive difference. But it has also meant that my kids don't have the assistance of public school life and its opportunities to help them rebuild their lives each time. So that responsibility largely falls on my shoulders. Sometimes I'm great at it. Sometimes I'm not. Either way it feels heavy. There is a lot of guilt.

Military life means that you are a small part of a massive entity.  In some ways this is wonderful.  I've mentioned before that an F-16 screaming overhead doesn't sound like noise pollution to me, it sounds like freedom.  Being a part of the force that maintains that freedom is meaningful.  We are patriots, the lot of us and we are proud to make the sacrifices as individuals and families that keep this country strong.  But the military is infected with that disease common to all large entities - bureaucracy. We have a bad case of it. It is hard to sufficiently describe how frustrating the bureaucracy of the military can be. And we have to deal with it all the time.

Being a military family also means that our entire lives revolve around my husband's job. For non-military families, the job is just the thing that finances the rest of life.  For us, the job dictates most of the rest of life. Again, it's hard to adequately describe this.  Obviously it dictates where we live and how long we will live there. But there is more to it than that. I have trouble committing our family to any event more than three weeks away because I never know what is going to come up. Unexpected TDYs, late nights or just more than the normal amount of stress can pop up anytime and those thing always take priority.  Even things as important as a family reunion a year away get a maybe from me.  Flexibility is vital for a military wife but sometimes the other side of flexible is wishy-washy.

When my husband and I go out on dates or weekends together we spend 90 percent of our time discussing his job, both the current assignment and what his best options are for his next assignment. And when the stress level at work is high it always carries over into marriage and family relationships. I'm not even talking about scary stress like PTSD or abnormal stress like re-integration after a deployment but just the normal stress of an overworked, underfunded, undermanned Air Force. It's the biggest enemy to military families and it's hard to conquer.

Another tough one is the very very fine line I walk between being independent enough to cope without my husband while still helping him feel a part of the family.  I have to be able to function through deployments and TDYs and those times when he is here physically but not mentally. If I'm not able to do this, it creates a distraction and hardship for him and makes my children's lives unstable and scary. But like many military wives I've spoken with, I struggle with the flip side of that coping ability: your husband ends up feels unneeded and disconnected. Just a paycheck. There are whole volumes that could be written on this one but I'll just say it makes navigating the marital landscape much harder.

Most of all, I guess, being a military wife means that I am a different person than I expected to be. The experience of being married to an active duty military member has shaped me. A lot of that is good and I'm grateful for it. Some of it isn't.  I've had amazing experiences that would never have happened without the military life. I've met wonderful people and experienced life in multiple places. I've raised kids who are resilient and incredibly close, both to me and to each other. And over and over I've learned about sacrifice and felt the soul stretching that comes through it.

All because I am a military wife.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sunshine and Mustaches

         I just love the instant gratification that is a baby quilt. Long projects are great but sometimes they are just so.... well, long. A quick baby quilt project (or two) can be a great boost when my patience and perseverance on the bigger quilts is running low.
       Fortunately for me I know some pregnant people!! And some recently pregnant people. Always nice to have a convenient pregnant person around when you want to make a baby quilt. Plus they really make the coolest baby shower gifts ever.  (The quilts not the preggos.)
     Baby quilt number one is called Scattered Sunshine and was made for my newest niece, Savannah.
I tried out a great technique described by Jenny of Missouri Star Quilt Company in this tutorial. It's a variation of her pinwheel block tricked up by 3 Dudes Quilting. Anyway, it's really easy but with the high contrast of the fabrics and the smaller block size I used, the quilt top turned out quite busy. There wasn't anywhere for your eyes to rest.  So I added a wide border of yellow, which I liked but then it was way too yellow.
So I bought some giant ric rac, something I'm been dying to work with, and stitched that over the narrow white border. It took me a while to figure out how to do the corners but I think it worked to bring the girliness back a bit.
I LOVE love love the backing to this. All the fabric were from a kit I bought from Stitches and Sew Forth months and months back. But I didn't love the pattern so it was no hardship to use it for this quilt instead. 
I have promised to put labels on all my quilts now so here is the label I did for this one.  Still trying to decided if I like putting the label on before the quilting or after.  Once it was finished and washed up nicely I put it in the mail for Utah, where it will live at my brother's house.

Quilt number two was for a cute young mom at church. We discovered one day that her mother and my mother grew up in the same little town in Arizona. And my grandpa was her mom's bishop. Small world.

For this quilt I tried another technique I've had my eyes on. After looking at this quilt by Modern Material Girl and this quilt by I'm a Ginger Monkey, I came up with this:

You can see my block dimensions are different. I was working with leftover layer cake squares - the Comma by Zen Chic line. And I didn't have duplicates. So if I wanted to have a mustache and a matching solid block, I would have to make the blocks rectangular instead of square.  I cut three inches off each ten inch block. That was enough to use the mustache template provided by I'm a Ginger Monkey.

I was afraid that the colors weren't masculine enough so I added a few more greys to the mix and kept all of them in the center diagonals of the quilt. The backing is also grey, in a delicious chevron striped minky I bought at Quiltique, my sort of local quilt shop.  The chevron stripes are not heat pressed into the fabric like the raised dots on some minkys. They are sort of shaved in, if that makes sense. So they won't disappear with heat or wear.
I also tried a new binding technique. (Baby quilts make an awesome venue for trying out new things.) It's called Susie's Magic Binding. You can find the tute here. The technique is not hard but I still managed to misread the directions and ended up with grey binding with a tiny green flange instead of the other way around. Oh well, I like how it turned out.
The green is easiest to see on the label, which I attached after I was done quilting. I think I like that better but I'm not sure it will be as sturdy.

Due to a scheduling conflict I wasn't able to go to the baby shower.  But Cynthia loved the quilt and the mustache pacifier I ordered from Amazon to go with it. Have you seen those? They are stinking cute!
I'd love some feedback on the label question - when to you attach it? And any fun new techniques you've recently tried out, on baby quilts or otherwise.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Quilting again - Thank Heaven!

One thing I have learned from this whole long drawn out moving and re-settling process is how much joy I get from quilting.  I could go into the why and hows of that but I know that for those of you who understand no explanation is needed and for those of who don't no explanation would suffice.

But while I was without my own Helga for four months (and missed her very much) I did get a chance to sew on my mother's Viking while I was staying with her. Her machine is about the same age I am. She bought it while my dad was finishing his PhD at Purdue and she paid for it mostly by teaching machine embroidery classes. This was back when machine embroidery did not involve software and was much more like free motion quilting or thread painting. Anyway, the machine is a rock. 40ish years later and it's still going strong.

My mom is an accomplished seamstress but hasn't done much quilting. Inspired by a certain daughter she decided she wanted to make a quilt for her first grandchild's wedding.  We chose something simple since we didn't have a lot of time. I had been wanting to try the giant star quilt tutorial at In Color Order and I loved this variation with the great borders at Diary of a Quilter. We also thought it would be fun to use Jake and Laura's wedding colors, which were midnight blue and sage green.

I have to say that this pattern is awesome for putting together a quick but impressive quilt and with Jeni Baker's great diagrams showing layouts for 8, 4 or 2 colors it's so versatile. We had a great time choosing fabrics and the quilt top went together quickly and fabulously.
I love the polish that the scrappy border adds to it. We took turns free-motion quilting the different sections. Each section has a different pattern with the whites all being a large stipple. My mom's machine embroidery skills served her well and she's on her way to becoming a great free motion quilter.
 The back is black and white sheet music. Particularly appropriate since both Jake and Laura are in vocal performance choirs at their college. The binding is an awesome, funky geometric fabric that has both the green and blue in it.  My mom wasn't sure about this one but I knew it would make a great binding. It keeps the quilt fresh and modern. And just makes me happy.
We split the backing up with a thick strip of bricks and a tone on tone black. The quilting shows up well on the black and you can see the various stitch patterns we used.

I didn't get exact measurements of the finished quilt but it turned out about queen size which is equivalent to a snuggle couch quilt for my 6'8" nephew. 

My sister wanted them to open the quilt before the reception so we could hang it behind the gift table. It looked pretty amazing since it matched all the wedding decor. My mom has decided to make this a tradition for all her grandkids.  She has quite a few of those so it's a good thing her machine is so immortal!

As for me, I've finally gotten Helga unpacked and settled in a corner of my bedroom. I'm making progress on my two matching quilts-in-progress.  And just to cheer myself up during a dismal week, I've started a new quilt.