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. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Candy Bomber - Visit with an American Hero

 Have you ever met a celebrity? I have to admit that the idea has never really appealed to me. There are very few media-famous persons that I have any desire to meet. But a hero, now that is a different story.  Perhaps the best event of our recent homelessness was the chance to meet Lt. Col. Gail Halvorsen (Ret.) aka the Berlin Candy Bomber.

Colonel Halvorsen flew during the Berlin Airlift and after seeing a group of German children peacefully share two sticks of gum he had given them, promised to drop some chocolate from his plane on his next run. The identifying signal, a dip of his wings as he came in, earned him the name Uncle Wiggly Wings. And that initial drop of chocolate bars turned into a huge months-long operation which gave hope back to Germany's children and helped to heal the wounds of war between the two nations.

This fall a new book was released by Shadow Mountain:
The book is very well done with beautiful illustrations mixed with old photos. The enclosed DVD is not an audio version of the book, it's a video recording of a Tabernacle Choir concert during which Tom Brokaw reads the book. Impressive. So when my mother decided to purchase a book for each of her children I was excited.

And when she asked me if my family would be interested in meeting Brother Halvorsen (yes, he's Mormon) and having our book signed, I was almost giddy. Miley Cyrus? No thank you. Hilary Clinton? Pass on that one too.  But a chance to meet the dashing young captain who broke the rules and talked his buddies out of their chocolate bar rations so he could chuck them out the plane windows tied to hankerchiefs? I might swoon.

Colonel Halvorsen lives about an hour south of Tucson and somehow my mother knows someone in his stake who could get us his phone number.  One phone call later, during which he called my mother 'sunshine', we had a date with a hero.

We planned it for the weekend Geoffrey came down to bring us the Excursion. I think he was as excited as I was.
Here is Col. Halvorsen signing the seven books my mom brought with us. Don't you love his shirt? He's the sweetest old cowboy you could ever meet. You wouldn't know he is in his nineties. He had us all laughing the entire visit. He was excited to learn of our military service and asked us many questions about our recent year in Turkey. He even thanked us for our service and my children for their sacrifice.

He mostly talked to my kids, which I really appreciated. They were very attentive and I kept thinking, "Remember this! Remember this!" (I have wished before for a Permanent Record Button for my children's memories. This is one of those times it would have been useful.) He talked about great things coming from small things - two sticks of gum leading to improved international relations. He told the story of being called in to his CO's office and expecting a severe reprimand but getting a go-ahead instead. And how it went from cajoling other pilots and crew to give up their candy bars to being sent crates of candy parachutes from schools and charity groups in the U.S.

He told us of returning to Germany years later when a school was named after him and meeting a man who as a child had a candy bar drop down through the clouds to land at his feet. And hearing how that chocolate bar gave him hope that things would get better.

He was happy and joking through most of our visit. But he got choked up just once. That was while telling our kids to never pass up the chance to give service.  He told of being left home once as a teenager while the rest of the family went on day trip. The family was late getting back so he went out to begin the evening milking. He was able to get all the cows milked by himself before his father returned.  Telling us about this one act of service for his father was what brought him to tears.

Here is the crew with Brother and Sister Halvorsen.

And one of the two Lt. Colonels together. Geoffrey wants this one in his office.

Colonel Halvorsen is the kind of hero I want my kids to be. The kind of hero I want to be.  He took the small means that were available to him, two sticks of gum and some chocolate bars, and used them to share love and goodness and hope.  That small act made a huge impact in a time of great hardship.

Doctrine and Covenants Section 64 verse 33 - Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. 

I have a secret belief that someday in heaven we will be shown the effects of our actions, the ripple effect that our small choices to be be kind or selfish have had throughout others' lives. My guess is that Col. Halvorsen will have a lot to watch.