Friday, May 22, 2009

Measure twice...cut once! Measure TWICE...cut ONCE!

Although measuring twice and cutting once is excellent advice, for some reason I have always gravitated more toward: "Measure once, cut once, check size of piece that has been cut, realize it's wrong, throw it away, measure again, cut again, re-check size and hope it's right. Repeat as needed." Now, I must admit that I have wasted a lot of fabric and time with my "do-over" method and I often wonder why, after 30 years, I still tend to balk at the "measure twice" method. I'm not sure if I think that I'm perfect and don't NEED to measure twice - or if I'm actually lazy and don't want to take the time to measure twice - or if I'm always in a hurry and just don't have the time to measure twice. Whatever the reason - I just wanted to share with you that, unfortunately, "I did it again!"

I have been working on a Block of the Month quilt that has been designed and presented by the Decatur Quilter's Guild evening group this year. The block for this month was a bit complex and we received excellent instruction at our last meeting. Mary T., one of our guild members and an excellent quilter, demonstrated how to make and sew together 45 degree diamonds. She has stressed precision piecing and each month encourages us to try something new. I have truly enjoyed learning new cutting and piecing methods and the hands-on experience that comes with making the block. Mary showed us how to cut the diamonds, mark them with pencil, pin them along the sewing line (rather than perpendicular to it) and then she demonstrated how to carefully stitch the pieces together while gently slipping the pin out of the fabric as the needle approached it. I wanted to give it a try! Now, you would think that since I can be very fanatical about my points matching and my blocks laying flat, I would ALWAYS measure twice before I actually cut my beautiful fabrics...

Well, once again, I only measured once and here's what happened:

I had been asked by one of the leaders of our church women's group to design and make a quilt block for a special quilt that was being made. Since the backing fabric was given to us, the square either had to be embroidered (don't know how...don't want to learn); written on with fabric markers (I have TERRIBLE handwriting - in fact I got a well-deserved C- in handwriting in the 3rd grade and my writing has never improved.); or applique. Applique is artwork - it is more than just making a precision-cut quilt block - and just not my forte. BUT - it was really my only choice.

I decided to make a Tree of Life block. I found a beautiful pattern in a book called "Big Block Quilts by Magic" that used 45 degree diamonds to make the tree. Lo and behold - I just LEARNED how to make PERFECT 45 degree diamonds! I was very anxious to give it a try. The block dimensions in the book made a tree that was larger than the piece of background fabric that I was given, so I needed to scale it down. In addition the block was pieced and really didn't lend itself well to applique. BUT - I was feeling pretty ambitious and decided to use the new method I learned at my guild meeting and then applique the finished tree to the background fabric square. How hard could it be??? I measured the size of the background fabric, measured the size of the tree I needed, divided out the measurements and came up with the size of the diamond that I needed. I cut out 34 diamonds and a tree trunk - and sewed them all together. It was PERFECT! When I placed the tree on the background fabric I was simply devastated to see that my tree was about 3 inches larger than the background square. ARGHH!!!!! An entire morning spent on making my beautiful tree of life, and NOTHING to show for it.

So, as per "Mary B.'s do-over Method" I measured again, cut again, re-checked size and - yes - it was right. Whew! I stitched each diamond together, then cut little diamonds of freezer paper and ironed them to the inside of the points. I turned under the edges of each "tree point", basted the raw edges down, sprayed the tree with sizing, removed the basting stitches and papers, and machine appliqued it down.

Here's a picture of the finished block.
I think there are many times that we're happy with the status quo. We use our old methods because they're tried and true - even though there may be other methods out there that are easier, more accurate and fun. I could have cut templates for my diamonds and stitched them together, but with Mary T.'s encouragement at guild meeting, I tried something new and guess what? It worked!

In revisiting my reasons for not measuring twice and cutting once...I really don't think I think I'm perfect (I KNOW I'm not), I don't believe I'm lazy (although I have my moments), and I would never try to hurry up on a quilting project. I think that the reason I don't remember to measure twice is that I just get so excited to try something new, that I simply forget. After this most recent fiasco, will I remember to measure twice and cut once next time? Hmmmm....I'll certainly try, but there are no guarantees.

On a side note - my mom and dad were married on May 30th (Memorial Day), 1953. They will be celebrating 56 years of marriage on Saturday. Congratulations Mom and Dad!

Happy Blanketmaking and Happy Memorial Day!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Our Spark Has Been Rekindled!

I'm a little late writing my blog entry for this week. Carol and I have been at Quilt Market in Pittsburgh PA, helping to introduce a new Project Linus fabric line to the quilting world! What a marvelous experience it has been. We are so grateful to Richard Gross, the president of Avlyn Fabrics and Patrick Lose, a well know fabric designer, for taking a leap of faith and creating a fabric line for Project Linus called Komfort Kids. As we watched the Avlyn sales representatives as well as the fabric distributors from around the country write order after order for our beautiful fabric, we couldn't have been more excited to see how successful this venture is proving to be! We cannot wait to get our hands on the fabric (probably in July), and actually make some quilts! We hope you feel the same. In addition, Fons and Porter Magazine will have a Project Linus "Komfort Kids" spread in their next issue. There is a contest that will be introduced and the prizes are absolutely phenomenal. You can work as an individual or as a group and I'll post again as soon as I am able to send you all of the details.

Please click on this link to view Avlyn's Komfort Kids promotional video:

Please click on this link to view Patrick Lose's blog and then click on New Fabrics to see Komfort Kids:

Komfort Kids is such an appropriate name for a line of Project Linus fabric. We know that the gift of a handmade blanket offers comfort to children going through a difficult time and this new fabric has truly captured the essence of what we're all about. What an honor it continues to be as we work with these kind, extremely talented and generous individuals!

Not only does a child receive comfort from a Project Linus blanket, but the family members benefit as well. The following thank you note was sent to Project Linus by a mom whose child received one of our blankets. She writes: “The other day my son was hospitalized due to his cancer returning. He is three years old, and has been fighting cancer since December of 2007. This time was a lot harder on him as they found it in his spinal fluid and brain this time. At the hospital he was given a quilt made by one of your angels. He has not let it out of his sight. I cannot thank you enough for the work you do. Just know this is one mom that will spread the same love. I would like to donate once I can, and I have asked others.”

The beauty of this note is that in spite of the heartache and difficulties that are currently enveloping this family, the mom still felt the need to take the time to write us a personal note. Not only did she thank us for the Project Linus blanket that is now offering comfort to her little boy but she also to offer to help us in the future. Her beautiful expression of gratitude not only warms our hearts, but touches our souls and as Project Linus blanketeers we are inspired by the sincerity of her words.

Albert Schweitzer said: “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within each of us.” The touching words of gratitude that are passed along to us through a simple thank you note, rekindles OUR light and inspires us to make yet another blanket for yet another child in crisis. For the mom, the blanket has been the “spark” sent out from a stranger to rekindle her flame – giving her family hope and a reason to forge on. What an inspirational cycle of hope – and each of us can participate!

There are many times in our daily lives that we may feel as if our light is going dim. We may be overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities; we may have health problems that are getting us down; we may be dealing with difficult family issues or we may simply be losing our way. An expression of gratitude offered to us can quickly and easily rekindle our flame, enabling us to extend the same act of love to someone else.

It is my hope that your blanketmaking light will be rekindled by the illuminating spark offered by those individuals mentioned above. I offer you my sincere thanks for your continued support of our Project Linus Chapter. Each blanket you make keeps my light bright – and each delivery that I make does the same for a very special child and his or her family.

Happy Blanketmaking,

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dreams do come true!

When I was in grade school, one of my dreams was to purchase a sewing machine. My grandmother had a beautiful sewing machine in a brown wooden cabinet and on one occasion she opened it up and let me look at it. That’s all it took - I knew that I wanted my own. I had a paper route and although I didn’t make much money, I knew that if I saved every penny I made, I could eventually purchase my very own sewing machine. When I had saved $100 I visited the local Bernina dealer - ready to make a purchase. I very quickly learned that I couldn’t even afford the foot pedal of a Bernina. In fact, the cheapest machine they had was a used Kenmore sewing machine in a cabinet for $150.00 and I was still $50.00 short. I was devastated. I talked to my grandmother about it, and she agreed to advance me the additional money I needed to purchase the machine. It was blue and it was BEAUTIFUL and I was ready to make something. My mom, on the other hand, thought that sewing was a waste of time and money, and refused to let me waste my time or my money on my new found hobby. That didn’t stop me. At night, when everyone was either watching TV or sleeping, I would quietly retreat to my bedroom and secretly practice my sewing. (Yep - I was a rebellious, out-of-control teen - that's for sure!) I was sure that I could finish a project, present it to my Mom, and she would applaud my hidden talent and encourage me to make more! But, realistically speaking, most (in fact all) of my secret sewing projects didn't quite come out the way I had hoped. Why? I needed to take sewing lessons. Convincing my mom was not easy, but eventually she relented and allowed me to take a summer school sewing class at the local junior high school where I made a simple blue dress. In the end, somehow one armhole came out smaller than the other and the finished dress was a disaster that I never wore. I almost accepted the fact that Mom was right - sewing was indeed a waste of time and a waste of money.

When I became interested in quilting, it wasn’t as popular as it is today – in fact it wasn’t popular at all. My quilting curiosity was born when I came across a book with black and white pictures of quilts – no instructions on how to make one – just pictures and historical descriptions. I thought they were just beautiful and wanted to give quilting a try. I bought the book and planned my quilt. With 3 pieces of fabric I was ready to create my masterpiece. I cut the fabric into hundreds of little pieces – squares, triangles, rectangles – not even realizing that I needed to have a seam allowance added to each piece in order to sew them together. When I tried to sew the first two pieces together my sewing machine literally devoured the tiny pieces and hid them somewhere under the throat plate. I was so discouraged and so disappointed. I packed up all my fabric shapes and put them in a shoe box. I hid the box in my closet and decided to give up quilting “for a time”.

Then, in the late 70’s I bought a Good Housekeeping Magazine that had a log cabin quilt on the front of it, with “quilt as you go” instructions. EUREKA!!! It was at that moment that I knew I could make a quilt. My confidence was restored and I approached quilting with a new vigor! The Good Housekeeping instructions were very easy to follow and I made 2 twin sized log cabin quilts out of red, blue, green and yellow calico fabrics, with a solid red backing. I thought they were BEAUTIFUL and I gave them to my mom. She loved them and used them for years until they literally fell apart.

Since then, I have made quilts for my children, my relatives, my friends; for raffles, for auctions, for contests and now for Project Linus. I’ve had many, many sewing machines since my first Kenmore, including a Bernina! I have a treadle machine, a Featherweight, an embroidery machine, a Janome that automatically cuts the thread and my dream of all dreams - a long arm machine! It’s my philosophy that you just can’t have too many sewing machines.

My mom is now very supportive of my quilting. Since I REALLY never was a rebellious child or teenager – she says that the fact that she did all she could to discourage me from sewing is what led to my obsession with quilting! I agree and give her full credit! I also thank her from the bottom of my heart! I have found a hobby that takes me to a very special place each time I sit down at my machine. Quilting gives me a way to offer comfort to those in need, a way to express myself and a way to let my family and friends know how much I love them. How many hobbies can cover that many bases?

On this Mother’s Day, I am reminded that I have the most wonderful mom in the whole world, the best children and sons-in-law and grandchildren anyone could ask for, as well as a loving husband who literally supports me and all that comes with my “quilting habit”. This special day dedicated to mothers reminds me that I am blessed in more ways than I can count. I love each one of them with all my heart. Because of each of them, my dreams have come true! It just doesn’t get any better than that!

Happy Blanketmaking!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Twittering Away – As Time Goes By…

Twitter, Twittering, Tweet, Tweets and followers...are we talking about bird noises and bird watchers? No – believe it or not, we’re talking about a 21st century method of human communication. As we all know, each new bit of technology brings about a whole new lingo that accompanies it and I’m DETERMINED to keep up with it all. IMing, facebook friends, chats, blogs, iPods, cell phones, and even e-mail were words with definitions that were non-existent 20 years ago and now are common terms that have been added to our vocabulary. Then, in 2006 another new term entered the English Language: Twitter.

For those of you who may not know, twittering is an instant messaging service that allows you to communicate with the world by typing a message on your cell phone or computer using 140 characters or less.

Here’s how it works: The “twitterer” (you) answers the following question: What are you doing right now? Your answer to this question is called a “tweet” which you send as an instant message once you subscribe to the free twitter service. When someone either reads or replies to one of your “tweets” – they are one of your “followers”. According to published reports, everyone who is anyone twitters. Clergy are twittering their church services; health officials are twittering about the swine flu; experts are twittering about their areas of expertise; philanthropists are twittering about their causes; and politicians even twittered during the president’s speech.

So far, I don’t have a twitter account and I don’t tweet but with all the hoopla going on about it, I thought I should check it out.

Here’s what I found out: The website says that “with Twitter, you can stay hyper–connected to your friends and always know what they’re doing.” This posed a couple of questions in my mind: Do I REALLY want to be hyperconnected to my friends and always know what they’re doing? Do I really want to have “followers” who are hyperconnected to me and always know what I’m doing??? Now, I admit that there may be people out there who would like access to "what I'm doing right now." I could tell them when I took my vitamins this morning or how empty my gas tank was when I filled it up. They may even be interested in the fact that I beat my high score on Brick Breaker while I was waiting for my flight in the airport on Sunday. OR – better yet – I’m sure everyone would like to know that I bought new ruler, some fabric, a few patterns and a pattern book when I visited “Quilt Country” while in Dallas last week! Of course, the escapades and accomplishments of my adorable grandchildren are fodder for a plethera of tweets, and news of the next quilt I plan to make is always a highlight. Yes – I do live a very exciting life and I probably should tweet on occasion to let the whole world in on all the excitement instantaneously. Why make anyone wait for an e-mail or a new weekly blog posting? What else do I have to do? I mean...I could spend all my leisure time twittering away…as time goes by…

On second thought, maybe I’ll put “twittering” on hold for now and put my new ruler to good use. I think I’d rather be quilting away…as time goes by.
Happy Blanketmaking!

PS - We got a new kitty this week! Her name is Sadie and she is a rescued cat who started her life 6 months ago in a shed. When she was found she was in very bad shape and her foster mom nursed her back to health. She’s very sweet, very loving and we are already crazy about her - and she did a great job posing for her photo!