What You Can Do With A Bag Of Fabric

So a group of say about 28 women get together for four days. They each have a bag or two or three of fabric. What do you think can happen with that fabric in four days of sewing? Well it was pure magic, my Sweeties! Pure magic!

Look and see what the results are. And feel free to drool!

Is this cutest guy you ever saw? And all made out of little pieces of fabric. Can you see the squirrel and the rabbits?

This is his not so little playmate. Isn’t she a beauty? Again, all done with little bits of fabric that were fussy cut.

This one was put together, cut apart and put back together. Now how clever is that? Spectacular!

This medieval looking gem has wonderful thread work in every block. It is too beautiful for words! When it is finally all together, it will be a stunner!

Here is a really lovely Quilt of Valor. It is meant for a specific veteran and is truly personal. A lot of love is going into this quilt.

These two lovelies are coasters and couldn’t be nicer.

These pieced butterflies are going to be wonderful in the final quilt, whatever it is. Of course, I especially love the the blue one!

Here is some hand embroidery beyond compare! Just sit and enjoy!

More embroidery. Drool if you must!

Love the colors in this beauty!

How nice is this? Won’t it be great in a camper or a lodge?

Now this is a fantastic quandary. Not sure what it will be, but it is divine.

What a cutie patootie is this! I want one!

There is nothing like a good old fashioned bowtie quilt. Brings back memories, doesn’t it?

What a sight! Can you believe this? The work and the precision!

Another version of a bowtie quilt. X’s and O’s.

Doesn’t everyone want one of these? I sure do!

Oh my goodness! A baby quilt that practically brings tears to your eyes.

How lovely is this? Love the scrappy border!

More butterflies! But this time in the border. How unusual!

Oh how I love a blue and white quilt! And those fabrics, yum!

One version of a good old Log Cabin. Wonderful!

And so ended our four day quilt retreat. The quilts are the only part I can show you. I can’t show you how much we laughed or how much we talked or how much we cared about each other. I can’t show you the hugging, the touching, the sharing that went on.

The fabric is what draws us together, but the fellowship is what keeps us together. Quilting is the purpose but caring is the glue. A bag of fabric may be the reason we gather but true love is why we stay.

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Camp Out, Pig Out

This is the eleventh year that four friends and Gramps and I have gone camping together for a long weekend in the spring. We have known each other for many years. In fact, one friend Ethel and I have known one another since the sixth grade. We have seen all the good, the bad and the ugly in each other many times over.

It started innocently enough with a group camping trip. We traded meals and that’s when we found out that Bill or Mr. Bill as we call him, was a master cast iron chef. He then became our breakfast guru.

Breakfast soon became a bacon lovers delight. Bacon does go with everything, you know! As in bacon and eggs, bacon and pancakes, bacon and ham, bacon and cheese, bacon and potatoes, bacon and . . . bacon. There are so many ways to eat bacon, as we discover each year.

Breakfasts lasted longer each year. First an hour, then two, now up to three hours including dessert. Yes, we have dessert for breakfast!

We have found that breakfast is so spectacular and lasts so long, what with all the courses and talking and more courses and more talking, that we usually don’t plan lunch anymore.

There is a mid afternoon snack. Something healthy, like brownies or cookies. Then a big dinner planned and served by one of us. It’s really just a big eat fest. Hence, the name – Camp Out, Pig Out. It has since been shortened to COPO.

Since Gramps and I are retired, we are the scouting party and arrive a couple of days early. We set up camp, get nearby sites for everyone and test the local sights and cuisine.

On Friday afternoon the other two couples arrive and set up their rigs. I always serve Friday night dinner because I have the time to cook while they are traveling.

This year we are having homemade grilled hamburgers (nothing better!), potato salad, fresh tomatoes, chips, guacamole and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Sound good?

On Saturday morning, of course, is a mega breakfast, Mr. Bill style. Bacon, bacon and more bacon. Yum! After this artery stopping meal, we usually divide up – men go fishing and/or boating, women go shopping.

In other words, the guys head to the nearest body of water, attach bits of fish/hot dog/bait/etc on the end of poles and sit for hours waiting and waiting. This activity is called fishing and men love to do it, talk about it, plan for it and buy equipment for it. Our men are no different.

Every year they go fishing. Every year they catch nothing. Every year they have a great time. Go figure!

The ladies, on the other hand, go shopping or sightseeing or both. We have been to antique stores, quilt shops, historic homes, museums, gardens, gift shops. And we have been successful every single time!

Oh yes, we have never come home empty handed. What glorious things we have found. What fabulous memories we have made. What fun we have had.

For several years now, Ethel has made matching T-shirts for the three of us ladies. One year as we were out shopping in our three identical shirts, I convinced a shop owner that we were triplets out for a day of fun. The other two were exploding trying to keep from laughing and I was having the time of my life.

Over the years, our COPOs have been varied. We have weathered rain, hail, scorching heat, wild fires and floods. We have had sick people, injured people and the forever healthy people. We have tried cooking all sorts of foods (except fish. We’ve never had fish!) and gone out for food.

 

One year our grandson Mac came with us to the annual COPO. It took about an hour for him to feel comfortable going in and out of everyone’s camper as if he lived there. Everyone became family to him about one minute later. He was fascinated with the super bacon breakfasts. And of course, because he is male, he went fishing with the boys. I’m not sure what he really did all day.

We gals brought treats for him from our shopping trip. It’d seemed only fair. He was nine and he had put up with the fishing thing all day.

Eleven years of these grand memories and here we are again! It’s Thursday night. Everyone will be here tomorrow. Saturday morning will be an eleventh breakfast extravaganza.

Then the guys and a fishing guide will hit the lake for a day of fishing. Maybe the guide will change the day’s outcome.

We ladies are going to a Quilt Show and maybe some antiquing. Whatever suits our fancy at the time.

Saturday evening will be dinner at Myra and Mike’s camper with the traveling tablecloth we use for every meal. Then we build a campfire and sit up late – maybe lil about 11:00 or so. Hey, we’re old!

Sunday am will find us back at Mr. Bill’s with the traveling tablecloth for super breakfast #2. What a way to end a COPO. Total PIGOUT!!!!

It’s Thursday night and I can’t wait. Hope it doesn’t end too soon.

The Importance Of Saying I Love You

Every time I say goodbye to anyone I adore, I close with “love you”. Every time I end a phone conversation with a family member, they hear “love you” before I hang up. Every time one of my grandchildren walks out my front door, the last words they hear from me are “love you”.

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I want all my dear ones to carry those words with them whenever they leave my presence. I want them wrapped in my love and good feelings until we meet again.

For some people, that’s hard to do. For some people, those words don’t just roll off the tongue or come up easy in conversation. For some people, saying “I love you” to their own children is a difficulty.

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I think children cannot hear those words often enough. I think they need to hear those words from as many people as possible. I think those words need to be sincere.

Knowing you are loved provides stability and reliability in your life. It develops self-esteem, confidence and pride. Hearing the words of love reminds you of your place in the world, in the community, in the family.

Being told you are loved makes it easier to share your own love with others. You are more likely to love and express that love. It becomes a full circle of loving begets being loved begets loving, etc.

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My family knows I am going to begin and end every conversation with love words. It’s a known fact. It’s expected. If it didn’t happen, they would worry about me. Something would be wrong.

It has now become a tradition, a habit. Something comfortable and familiar that passes between two people. If it didn’t happen – if the words were not spoken – they would be missed. There would be a hole. The relationship would be changed.

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But we don’t forget. We speak the precious words to each other every chance we get. Every time. All the time. Love you. Love you too. And the relationships stay strong.

A Homemade Holiday

Think it’s not worth the trouble? Making things for the holidays or anytime, for that matter? Think no one will really appreciate your effort? Think it is all a waste? Think again, my Sweetie!

I believe the biggest and best gift you can give anyone is your time. It is precious, unique and will never come again. Any time you are thinking about someone, doing for someone or sharing with someone, it is a gift to be treasured and held in the highest regard.

So spending the time making a gift or fashioning a decoration or baking food or brightening up the yard is a gift of your time and thought. Do I believe you should do EVERYTHING – NO!!!!  That’s a killer and a misuse of your time. But adding your personal touch to each day and especially each holiday is very doable.

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And the memories it makes! Oh Boy! I have the best memories of my mother baking for every occasion. Pies! Cookies! Candy! Cakes! Everyone enjoyed her handiwork. Everyone was blessed by her efforts. And she loved doing it.

That’s the double blessing of homemade. The maker is as happy making the gift as the receiver is getting the gift.

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I love spending time on a project for one person. The whole while I’m thinking about them. How they will look when I give them the gift. How they will enjoy it. How it will benefit our relationship. On and on I think, until the project is done.

Then I get to really see their face when I give it to them and watch them enjoy it and feel our relationship deepen. What could be better than that?

I remember when we had young children, we decided to each have small blank books one Christmas. In each person’s book we would write down the gifts of our time we were giving that person. I had things like: “I  will make your bed” from my daughter, I will give you a back rub” from my son and “I will bring you breakfast in bed” from my husband.

There were many others that year and  in the years to follow. How fun it was to cash in the certificates during the year. Those gifts were extra special in so many ways.

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Putting forth effort for those you love is never a waste. It is love in the purest sense, it is a teaching moment and a good example for all those watching you. It couldn’t be more important.

So put your personal touch on every holiday. Whatever that means – making presents, making decorations, fashioning yard art, baking, cooking. It could be as simple as wrapping a gift or tying a bow or as interesting as smocking a Christmas dress. Whatever shows your talent and care.

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Show your love. Give of your time. Make you holiday homemade.

 

 

To Houston And Back Again

What would make 48 women get up in the middle of the night, drive to a deserted mall, then get on a bus and ride five hours to their final location? And do all that with joy and excitement in their hearts? Only one thing I can think of – The Houston Quilt Show!

And so it was. We 48 with bags, backpacks and credit cards in hand, made our annual trek to the quilters’ version of Mecca. The one place that calls to beginner and master alike, to traditionalist and modernist as well, to anyone who has ever looked longingly at fabric or wanted to make something wonderful from a scrap of woven anything – that place. We just call it “Houston.”

Houston has quilts to view of every kind, shape, color and era. One of the exhibits this year was “Dear Jane” quilts. They are near and dear to my heart. Well, Houston did not disappoint! Oh my, oh my!

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Even some of the backs are absolutely exquisite!

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Here’s a Dear Jane that forms a secondary heart design on the front of the quilt.

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Some are red and white, some are blue and white, some are black and white, and some are multi colored. It is a personal choice.

A person could spend days just viewing the lovely quilts hanging everywhere – the Christmas quilts, the modern quilts, the Millefiori, the dresses (yes, I said dresses!), the 20 foot crocodile and on and on.

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This is Best of Show which looks like a photograph. Here is the artist in front of her quilt.

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This quilt looks like photo up close and the shelves look like real wood. It is a masterpiece  of quilting.

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The miniatures were especially appealing to me. And I do mean small – these cuties were about four inches long and belonged in a dollhouse. I’m pretty sure they were made by elves.

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There were even quilts made out of linens and doilies and then quilted and beaded. They were exquisite beyond words.

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Entire quilts can even be done with thread alone as in this one. Beyond description really.

That night we had dinner at the Aquarium. How special is that? Yes, we had seafood for dinner and ate it in front of their cousins in the tanks, but it was so goooood!

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Anyway, the 350 pound Grouper didn’t seem to mind too much. The atmosphere was wonderful and the Pomegranate Kiss Martini didn’t hurt either. We had a grand time making friends and learning about the Aquarium.

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After a good night’s sleep, it was back to the show for more quilt Nirvana. Once we had seen all the quilts, it was off to the vendors’ section. Anything you could ever need, want or desire for quilting was there. And all the new things I didn’t know I needed!

What lovely fabrics and wools! Notions by the armload! Patterns to die for! There were shoes, clothes, jewelry, baskets, lights, irons. I got my rings polished. My friend even bought a sewing machine! An entire machine with all the extras, warranty, extra feet, carrying case, etc., etc. and had it all shipped home. What a great place is this Houston!!!

I bought a tin tray and some wool embroidery to fit on the top. I didn’t even know I needed it until I saw it! I was a very happy camper!

Finally the day was over and we tired, but very pleased 48 piled back into the bus with booty in hand. Bundles of fat quarters, quilt kits, rulers and stacks of wool were carefully placed in the overhead compartments. Patterns and books were kept to be read on the ride home.

In the dark of the night, we all looked at the pictures we had taken of the beauty we had seen. Soft conversations were held up and down the rows of seats, as we shared the sights and feelings of the day.

We talked, we laughed, we shared, we laughed some more, all in the darkness of a small bus. We tipped the driver. We gave a gift to the trip planner, coincidentally named Happy.

We knew the trip was coming to an end. Houston was now behind us and reality was again setting in. Our loved ones were waiting at the deserted mall to once again drive us home, where it all began.

But something was different. We still had all our goodies, our bags, our souvenirs, our new projects, and our pictures to take with us. We would remember. We had been to Houston!

Tea Dyed Quilt

I recently made a small doll quilt with some challenge fabric from the Jane Austen Group I belong to. It turned out very cute and colorful. But it seemed a bit too bright for me. I wanted it to look a little bit older and maybe a bit more used. The Log Cabin pattern kind of calls for that look, I think. So what to do?

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I had already made the quilt, so dying the fabric pieces was out. Maybe I could tea dye the whole quilt! Why not!

I got a pot big enough to fit the whole quilt into and filled it with water almost to the top, leaving room for the quilt. Brought the water to a boil and added my tea bags. As it happened, I only had one bag of regular tea. The rest of the bags were herbal tea. Wasn’t sure if that would work, but what the heck.

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Turned off the heat and left the 7 bags of tea to steep for about five minutes. While the tea was steeping, I soaked the quilt in cool water in the sink and wrung out the excess. After the five minutes, I added it to the tea mixture in the pot and let it soak for 30 minutes.

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I removed the tea bags when I put the quilt in. One source I read said to leave the bags in if you want a more mottled look.

Then I took the quilt back to the sink for another cool water bath to rinse out all the extra tea water. Finally I laid it on a soft towel to dry. That took about a day.

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The little quilt now looks just as I pictured it – a little toned down, a little old and a little used. I don’t think it could look any better!

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Why I Quilt

I love it. I have to do something everyday that gives me joy. Quilting (and sewing in general) does that for me. It brings a happiness that nothing else does. What a blessing to find that in my life and so early. I knew as a child I would sew the rest of my life.

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It gives me peace. When I am quilting, I am completely at peace with myself and my surroundings. Time and trouble have almost no meaning when I am in the midst of fabric and a sewing machine. For me, quilting is better at curing the blues than professional therapy.

It makes me use my mind. Quilting involves a fair amount of math; using fractions, the metric system, division, geometry and angles. I must use my brain to keep measurements accurate. I also have to make squares, triangles, etc. match up. There are many skills I have to learn and new ways of doing things. There is always something new on the horizon. Quilting keeps me on my toes, alert and always aware. I think it helps keep me young.

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It’s a way to be creative. Colors, shapes, sizes, contrast and harmony – all combine in a million different ways. How fun it is to explore the possibilities that quilting affords me. I can literally think of anything and try it out with fabric! It doesn’t get any better.

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It keeps me organized. Keeping all the parts of a quilt in order can be a chore, but it does make me develop a system. The system allows the quilt to go together in the right sequence and it is different for each quilt. That way I’m able to stop and start without getting lost.

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It allows me to be messy. When I’m quilting, it can look like a fabric bomb has gone off in my sewing room. And that’s okay! Allowing the fabric to speak and jump out can be a freeing experience. Try it – I think you will like it! And I don’t have to clean it up until I’m ready.

It gives me a sense of accomplishment. Making progress on a quilt is very invigorating. Every block done is a goal accomplished. And a finished quilt is a thrill beyond compare. All the thought, planning, work, ripping, re-sewing and love become a beautiful fabric hug.

It never ends. Even before one quilt is done, I’m looking forward to the next project. There is always a new energy and an eagerness to get to the next idea. Numerous thoughts concerning several quilts can be going on at the same time. Quilts follow quilts. They never end!

The community of other quilters. Sharing the love of quilting with other like-minded people just multiplies the joy. I have found quilters to be the most selfless, caring, inclusive, sharing folks on the planet. I can’t imagine quilting all alone. It is a gift that must be performed  with others. I must share. I must be taught. I must teach. I must know the happiness of a group quilting together.

Photographs for the book "Teach Yourself Visually: Quilting" by Sonja Hakala. (Photo by Geoff Hansen)

Photographs for the book “Teach Yourself Visually: Quilting” by Sonja Hakala.
(Photo by Geoff Hansen)

It is part of my legacy. I envision quilts I made being handed down to my family for generations. I have also made many quilts as gifts for family and friends. These quilts are part of me and show my love for those in my life. Like my laugh and my sense of humor, they will be remembered and talked about for many years to come.

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The act of quilting itself sets a good example for the younger generations in my family. As the matriarch, I want to be seen as a productive and active elder. I believe quilting does that for me.