Friday, March 27, 2009

The Mystery Snowballs - Week #2

It has been 1 week since I first posted the Mystery Quilt Challenge and if the 400 hits to our blog is any indication of interest - I think we have a lot of Project Linus sleuths out there ready and willing to accept the challenge and solve the mystery! Congratulations!

CLUE for the week:
What do you call a snowman party? (You will find the answer as you read on.)

Note: If you would like to see the instructions "up close" just click on the picture and it will open in a large, easy to read window. You can also print the instructions from that window as well.

From the fabrics that you cut last week, you will be using the following for Week #2:
-2 1/2 strips of the blue 2 1/2" strips
-2 1/2 strips of the green 2 1/2" strips
-17 - 6 1/2" squares cut from the white background fabric
Pencil, ruler, rotary cutter and mat or scissors

STEP #1 (click on picture below for a larger view)
Cut 34—2 1/2” blue squares from the 2 1/2” blue strips.
Cut 34—2 1/2” green squares from the 2 1/2” green strips.
You will probably be able to cut 16 squares per strip - so it will take approximately 2 1/2 strips of each color depending on the width of your fabric. (When you finish cutting, you will have 68 squares total.)
Set aside the remainder of the blue & green strips for later.**
STEP #2 (click on picture below for a larger view)
-On the WRONG side of each of the 2 1/2” squares, draw a pencil line on the diagonal of each of square. This pencil line will serve as your stitching guide.
-RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER - Place a blue square in the upper left and lower right corner and a green square in the upper right and lower left corner of one of the 17 - 6 1/2” white background squares as pictured.
-Stitch on the outside edge of the pencil line - shown as a dashed line in red. STEP #3 (click on picture below for a larger view)
-Place the 1/4” line of your ruler on the stitched lines (red dashed lines in diagram) and trim seam allowance to 1/4”.
-Discard corner piece.
-Attach blue and green corners to all 17 of the 6 1/2” squares in the same manner, trimming as indicated.

STEP #4 (click on picture below for a larger view)
-Press Corners Open (pressing seam allowance toward corner).
-Square up the block to 6 1/2” square if needed.
-Dashed line around edge of block in diagram indicates block seam allowance.

So, What do you call a snowman party? A Snow Ball!

Congratulations! You have created 17 "Snowball" blocks! Set these blocks aside for another week. You're not finished with them yet! :-)

The instructions for our Mystery Quilt are very detailed so that anyone of any skill level can easily create this quilt. Thank you so much for your notes of encouragement and excitement about the Mystery Quilt!

Next week I will post the third set of instructions.

Based on the weather we're expecting this weekend...I thought this week's blog title was appropriate. Yes, we have discussed the fact that Spring has arrived, but there are days when winter returns for a day or two before Spring actually takes hold. Remember our mantra for the year: "The Glass IS Half Full". As we all know - being snowed in is the perfect time to put on a favorite sweater and fuzzy socks, turn on some inspiring music, serve up a cup of hot chocolate and make a Project Linus blanket! We'll hope the predicted 4-6" misses us, but if it does arrive - I think I'll just say thank you for giving me a great reason to stay home and sew!

Happy Blanketmaking!

**For any more experienced quilters who are replacing the blue and green strips with alternate colors, remember that you will need to make note of which color is replacing blue and which color is replacing green as you put your blocks together. There is an order to the positioning of the green and blue strips and you don't want to get them mixed up.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Mysterious Challenge!

By definition, a mystery is anything that is kept secret or remains unexplained or unknown.

*What does "it" mean in the sentence "What time is it?"?
*Why do our noses run and our feet smell?
*Why is it that when you transport something by car, it's called a shipment, but when you transport something by ship, it's called cargo?
*Why can I remember the phone number and birthday of a high school friend, but cannot remember where I parked my car when I go into Wal-Mart?

The answer to any of these questions is: We don't's a mystery!

Mysteries can be frustrating and perplexing - but they can also be fun! I'd like to offer you a "fun" Project Linus mysterious challenge.


It's a quilt design that is presented in sections so that the quilter does not know what the final design will be until the last section has been received. Keep in mind that this is a Project Linus mystery quilt's a little easier than most "Mystery Quilts" and it's a little smaller than most "Mystery Quilts". But it is a mystery none-the-less and you will just need to trust me as you follow my instructions. Even the title of the quilt will remain a mystery until the end.

I have divided the construction of this quilt into several steps. When you check the BLOG each week, you will receive the next set of instructions. Anyone of any skill level can participate. If you have a question - just e-mail me and I'll try to help you out without giving away the mystery! Please don't ask for the next set of instructions early - you'll just have to be patient and wait for it to be posted on the BLOG! :-) Some of you will learn some new techniques from this - while others will simply breeze through the instructions. Either way - it's a fun way to make a quilt! When you've solved the mystery (i.e. finished the quilt) - please e-mail me a .jpeg picture and I will post all of the finished quilts on our BLOG. It will be so much fun to see how different each of you solve this "mystery" as you construct the quilt using the "Mystery Quilt" instructions!

You will need the following fabrics and materials for this quilt: (This does not include backing and binding - we'll take care of that later.)
FABRIC A: 1/2 yd. blue (either a tone on tone or predominately blue fabric)
FABRIC B: 1/2 yd. green (either a tone on tone or predominately green fabric)
FABRIC C: 1/4 yd. yellow (either a tone on tone or predominately yellow fabric)
BACKGROUND FABRIC: 1 yd. white background fabric (tone on tone)
Pink or Red Scraps (Eight - 6" squares)
Pastel Scraps (small prints or tone on tone solids work well) (Nine - 6" squares)
1/2 yard predominantly yellow fabric
Double stick fusible webbing: (I used 2 packages of Lite Steam a Seam 2 with five 9" x 12" sheets per package)

Fabric A Blue: Cut five—2 1/2” strips x WOF (width of fabric)
Fabric B Green: Cut five—2 1/2” strips x WOF (width of fabric)
Fabric C Yellow: Cut two—2 1/2” strips x WOF (width of fabric)

Background fabric: Cut 5—2 1/2” strips x WOF (width of fabric)
Background Fabric: Cut three—6 1/2” strips x WOF. Then cut the strips into 17—6 1/2” squares
Pink scraps: Eight—6” squares (They can be all the same fabric or 8 different fabrics.)

Pastel scraps: Seven—6” squares (A variety of colors works best.)
Predominantly yellow:
-If your width of fabric is at least 42” you will need 4 strips of 3 1/2” x 42”
-If your width of fabric is less than 42” you will need 6 strips of 3 1/2” x 42”

So - how about accepting the Project Linus Mysterious Challenge? I hope your answer is "YES"!!!

Cecile M. Springer says: “Above all challenge yourself. You may well surprise yourself at what strengths you have, what you can accomplish.”

If you follow the instructions EXACTLY as written...and ask questions as needed - you will be able to solve the mystery and in the process "you may well surprise yourself at what strengths you have - what you can accomplish"!!!

Happy Spring (yes - it's FINALLY here!) and Happy Blanketmaking!


**ADDENDUM to pattern: Some of you have asked if alternate fabrics can be used for this pattern. I wanted to make the pattern very straight-forward so that it would be simple to follow - which is why I limited the fabric colors. If you would like a different color scheme the fabrics that I believe can be changed are Fabric A: the 2 1/2" blue strips and Fabric B: 2 1/2" green strips. Make sure the two fabrics you choose are contrasting colors - you don't want these two fabrics to blend together. Just look at all the fabrics you've chosen (including the scraps) and see if you like the combination.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Springing Forward

I just love Groundhog Day. (I love the movie with Bill Murray as well.) Each year I wait to hear the report from Punksatawny Phil as to whether or not we will have six more weeks of winter. Although I really KNOW in my heart that spring is six long weeks away, I'm always a little disappointed when it's confirmed that he did indeed see his shadow. I look forward to spotting my first robin and seeing the buds on the trees turn into actual leaves. I love to see the tulips and daffodils sprouting and the grass turning green. When the magnolia trees blossom, I just can't get enough of them! As March 20th gets closer, a few warm days intermingled with the cold days gives me the reassurance I need that Spring WILL arrive and winter WILL end.

Several years ago, when we were well into March, I was just too busy to notice those tell-tale signs of Spring. I had a million and one things going on in my life (not that that's anything new) and in the process of accomplishing everything on my "to do" list, I never saw any buds on the trees, magnolia blossoms or my first robin. I didn't even know if we had six more weeks of winter because I forgot to read Punksatawny Phil's report back in February. I was so caught up in the busy-ness of my "to do" list that I missed every single thing that announced Spring had arrived. Here's the worst part: My wake-up call came as I was driving down the road and I noticed my first robin of the season - squashed dead on the street. Isn't that just awful (and kind of disturbing)? It made me sad that my first robin of the year was a dead robin and what was even worse was when I looked up from the road I noticed that all the trees had leaves on them, the magnolia blossoms had already fallen off the trees and were covering the grass - and I never even noticed. Good grief! I'll never forget that day because that was the moment I vowed to never again be so unobservant and caught up in every day tasks that I would miss these once-a-year displays of rebirth and renewal.

This week has been a wonderful week. My daughters Cari and Rachel and their families are visiting. Terry and I have enjoyed family meals together, playing with the grandkids, taking pictures, shopping, singing, visiting, etc. and it has been heavenly! Our regular routines and schedules stop when the family gathers...and that's a good thing! Since we don't live close to our children and grandchildren we try to enjoy every precious minute together. It's been so much fun! So, I tried to think of a subtle way to show off my adorable grandchildren while relating it to our Project Linus BLOG! :-) Of course, with 500+ Make a Blanket Day blankets stacked halfway to the ceiling in my hallway I had the perfect answer! This setting offered us many family photo opportunities that I would like to share with you. If you click on the slide show below see if you can find Logan, Tyler, Katie, Lucy and Gracie "hidden" on and in "Blanket Mountain"! (If you run your mouse over the picture, it will stop and tell you who you see.) Don't be concerned - The blankets are all bagged, protected and tagged for delivery and are actually stacked rather neatly in the hallway - it just doesn't look like it from the pictures! :-)

There are too many occasions when we miss out on the important things in life, simply because we're just too busy to notice. Our lives are full, our schedules are packed, the demands on our time are more than plentiful and there just aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. So what do we leave out? Or...better yet -what do we leave in?

Let's select something special that we each plan to do this week...and leave it in our schedule, no matter what! I think I'll work on a quilt top for two special friends (Does that surprise you?) and when I look out my sewing room window, I'll keep watching for leaves on the trees and my neighbor's daffodils. I already saw my first robin (it was alive) and I will be watching for more!

Have a wonderful week and Happy Blanketmaking!


Friday, March 6, 2009

To ski or not to ski...that is the question!

In the early 70’s when I was about 13 I had my first skiing experience. My mom had some antique skis that were just perfect for my introduction to the sport. My dad drove us to Twin Sisters Hill in Rockford where we loved to go sledding. They had a “high tech” ski rope where you grab on and are pulled by a rickety pulley to the top of the hill. I had no instruction but I knew that I could do it. How hard could it be? I made it to the top of the hill using the rope, gave myself a push with the ski poles and down the hill I went. What I did not know how to do was stop. About half way down the hill, the reality of my lack of experience and instruction slapped me in the face and I started to tumble. If I were a cartoon character I would have been pictured as a huge snowball with skis sticking out. But – since this was real life and not a cartoon, I was just “Mary in a Heap” at the bottom of the hill. As you can imagine, this discouraged me from attempting to ski again.

In the 90’s my husband and kids discovered skiing and they LOVED it. Not just the Twin Sisters Hill type skiing - they headed to the mountains for some REAL skiing. On one occasion they decided that it would be fun to take a family ski trip to Keystone Colorado. I bought a ski suit and optimistically decided that I would give it a try. We hired a ski instructor for me and as I headed up the bunny hill on the ski lift, I had a flashback of my experience on Twin Sisters Hill when I was 13. When I “jumped off” the lift I was once again “Mary in a Heap” - but this time I was at the top of the hill and knew that somehow I needed to get to the bottom of the hill. I panicked and “discussed” my apprehension with my ski instructor. (Actually I told him in no uncertain terms to just teach the kids, that I would crawl down the hill on my own and that I didn't expect to be reimbursed for dropping out of class.) He insisted that I ski down the hill just one time. I finally agreed and slowly made my way to safety. When I reached the bottom of the hill I said a prayer of thanksgiving for sparing my life and raised my arms in a victory stance. Terry decided to videotape my experience for posterity. When I watched the tape, I noticed that my ski instructor was actually pulling me down the hill by hanging on to the sleeve of my new jacket as we made our way down the hill in tandem. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t ski “solo”, but in reality, I THOUGHT I was skiing on my own and if I hadn’t been towed down the hill I would probably STILL be standing on the top of the hill.

This brings me to this week. We’re spending the week in Park City Utah on a ski trip. But things are a little different nowadays. I don’t bring a ski suit – I bring a sewing machine. One day is spent planning my project. The next day is spent shopping for the fabric and the next two days are spent sewing. My family always feels sorry for me when I spend the ski trip by myself sewing. They always offer to take me with them. They say they’ll ski slowly and that they’ll take the easy hills. I always decline their kind offers. What they don’t realize is that each of us has our own kind of fun and I have a GREAT time. Their fun involves wearing skis, trying to jump off a ski lift without falling under it, cold and snowy weather, claustrophobic helmets and the ever present medical danger resulting from a major fall. My fun involves beautiful fabric, a great sewing machine, patterns, rotary cutters, cutting mats and rulers and a finished quilt in the end. I usually work on a new Project Linus quilt pattern. It’s such a pleasure to sew with purpose and it warms my heart as well as my soul when I look at what I’ve accomplished. How could I pass up such fun? So – to ski or not to ski – that really isn't even a question for me. Hands down – I choose not to ski. I just couldn’t give up a week of fun behind a sewing machine.

I hope you’re able to take some time this week to work on something that brings you joy. Maybe a Project Linus blanket???

Happy Blanketmaking,

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Project Linus Blankets Central Illinois!

Yes, it's true! 1,023 blankets are now ready for delivery as a result of our Make A Blanket Day efforts. With over 200 volunteers (almost 60 more from last year) a GREAT time was had by all.

You can only imagine the sea of blanketeers working side by side - it was truly a sight to behold. The newspaper article said that we were a "crazy quilt of women" [and a few men]. I'm sure we'll all agree that we're pretty crazy. We're crazy about getting together to make blankets. We're crazy about serving the children of our community. We're crazy about food and door prizes and special drawings and ribbons and charms and challenges and fabric and yarn and fleece and rulers and cutters and sewing machines and patterns and books and Project Linus shirts and bags...and the list goes on and on! We just get pretty crazy about anything related to blanketmaking and Project Linus. The photographer from WAND-TV said that he never saw this many people in one place at a Mall Event since "Deal or No Deal" came to town! That's quite a compliment! :-)

The pictures have been posted. If you click on the link in the column to the right (Central IL Chapter Pictures) you can get a feel for the day.

Thank yous are in order...although we could NEVER adequately express our gratitude for all the help we received. Please know that without your help, we would not have been able to have such a successful day.

-On Thursday evening we were able to set up 46 quilts in the Boo-Boo Kids Quilt display in less than 30 minutes with the help of the Galos, the Busbeys, the Atteberrys, the Uhlers and the Balagnas. Set-up has become second nature for many of our husbands and Terry and I (especially Terry since he does most of the work) couldn't be more grateful for the help!

-On Friday evening we had many, many blanketeers, husbands, children and friends come to help with the main event set-up. THANK YOU to each of you and please let your familiy members & friends know how grateful we were for their help as well!!! We started at 8:30pm and we were home by 11:30pm. Gone are the 2:00am curfews for Blanket Day Set-up!!!

-Thank you to the Hickory Point Mall management - and especially Justine Robinson. Hickory Point mall could not have been more accommodating, more helpful and more gracious. We had the perfect work area and everything went as clockwork! We did have a little trouble keeping the general public out of our dining area...even with the "Private Luncheon" signs. News must be traveling around the community about Carol and Jane's oustanding Project Linus luncheons. :-) If you would like to send a thank you to the mall, please click here:

-Thank you to everyone who worked a shift at the Boo-Boo kids table - selling votes for the quilts on display. It's difficult to take time out of your day - especially on Saturday when everyone is having so much fun at the OTHER end of the mall - to offer this service and we thank each of you for helping out.

-THANK YOU Carol and Jane for working your magic once again by hosting our luncheon! There was not a hungry tummy in the bunch once we finished lunch!

-Thank you to Stewart's Sewing Machines for donating a beautiful BabyLock Quilter's Choice Sewing Machine ($900 value) for our drawing and to Jana Wrigley and Paula Hovey for once again hosting an instruction area at our event. Many of our blanketeers were able to learn paper-piecing techniques using the quiltmaker "Lotsa Pops" pattern made especially for Project Linus National Make a Blanket Day 2009. Anyone who pre-registed for Make a Blanket Day (and was over 18 years old) had a chance to win this machine! Congratulations to Angie Gum - the lucky winner! Angie and her mom were pictured in the Herald and Review article in the Sunday paper!

-Thank you to Quiltmaker Magazine for 2009 Make a Blanket Day Lotsa Pops pattern. Here's the Lotsa Pops Pattern link if you're interested:

-Thank you to Theresa Churchill for BOTH of her beautiful articles on Project Linus in the Sunday morning paper. I'm sure that the reason our blanket day attendance has grown as it has is due to Theresa's articles. What a privilege it is to have her attend our events and cover them in such a heartfelt and inspiring way. We are so grateful for the support of the Herald and Review - they have put Project Linus on the map!

-Thank you to Hope and Elizabeth Gauthier for serving as our Boo-Boo Kids judges. Their meticulous critiques accompanied by their kind hearts and past experiences made them the perfect judges for 2009. What a difficult job! We are so grateful for their help!

Here are the links to the articles:

-Thank you to each blanketeer who made a quilt for the Boo-Boo Kids Challenge. We had 46 quilts this year and each was simply breathtaking. We raised $3,140 from the Challenge! Woo Hoo!!! The pictures of the quilts are posted - just click on the "Chapter Pictures" link to the right. Congratulations to our winners!

Our winners in the judged category were:
1st: Jo Ann Holtzscher
2nd: Bunny Filer
3rd: Tie between Linda Kirby and Lisa Miller-Welton
Honorable Mention: Evelyn Guinan

Our winners in the fundraising category were:
1st: Eleanor Kirby
2nd: Barb McKee
3rd: Linda Busbey
Honorable Mention: Marge Perrino

-Thank you to Team 35 for the beautiful raffle quilt they donated to Project Linus. As a result of their tireless efforts, an additional $1,036 was raised for our chapter. THANK YOU!!!!

-Thank you to members of the Golden K's in Decatur for serving as our supply toters. We couldn't ask for better service. Many husbands and family members helped to tote supplies as well. We thank you and our blanketeers thank you! :-)

-Thank you to C.J. Banks and Christopher & Banks for offering our blanketeers a 30% discount for their stores on Saturday.

If we've forgotten anyone, we truly apologize and please accept our thanks for your help. Terry and I were home by 4:30pm, the cars were unloaded by 5:30pm and the trailer is parked and ready for Fall Make a Blanket Day in September (date to be announced). Dinner was followed by an early evening nap that gave us enough energy to make our way upstairs to bed for a GREAT night's sleep!

There's just nothing like a Make a Blanket Day to recharge our batteries. Just like the Energizer Bunny - when we are able to offer ourselves in service to others that is what keeps our bodies and our souls going and going and going and going and going....

We're especially grateful for our blanketeer friends. We may only see each other 3 times a year at most, but the friendships we've created will last forever!

Have a wonderful week and Happy Blanketmaking!
Mary and Cheryl