Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Crayon Box

Crayon Box Quilt Block

Continuing on with the Diary Quilt, I want to share this block with you, though I apologize for the horrible color. If you look at the sunbeam block, that is the same turquoise, yellow & orange. Not sure what happened to the color in this photo.....those strips that look black? They're dark green. 

Technical difficulties aside, this block was a no-brainer. The minute I saw it, I knew without a doubt I had to include it. For no one else but me. 

If one thing, one toy or hobby or emblem could be chosen to sum up my childhood (and, by childhood, I mean all my living at home years....) it would be crayons. Oh how I have always loved crayons. 

A fresh box, with that delicious scent of brand new crayon. 

Dumping the contents and arranging them correctly. Because, as any crayon lover knows, they belong in rainbow order. All the reds marching on to the oranges to the yellows to the greens to the blues to the purples, and then the pinks and grays and browns and blacks and  metallics. In a dark to light to dark progression, of course. 

Buying a new box when the crayons got so dull that I might need to tear the paper in order to sharpen them. Nope, not me. If the paper  needed to be torn, it was time to buy a new box. Period. 

I made only one exception to that in all my at -home years, and that was when babysitting the niece of a friend. I couldn't resist Maddie's innocent request and big brown eyes begging to sharpen the crayons. I caved. And bought a new box the next week, saving the peeled paper ones for any future Maddie visits. 

Of course I have my favorite color. In fact, my quilting mentor did a blog post about that, when she asked my favorite color (so she could surprise me with a gift!) and I replied, "Cerulean. You know, the crayon color???"  Her kids being a wee bit older than  mine, crayons haven't been around her house in a long time. She had to go on-line to look up the exact color I meant. Oops. (and thanks, dear friend!)

So, yep, when I saw this block I knew it was going in the quilt. It so perfectly, all in one block, captures my entire childhood, all of my at-home years. From Christmas tree ornaments to Keepsake Tins to entering (but not winning) New Color Naming Contests to those many, many, many boxes of beautiful, barely used,  unpeeled crayons. Crayons simply are my childhood, and this Crayon Box Quilt Block simply is the perfect symbol of that. 

What about you?? Do you have a favorite color? Or some other favorite childhood toy? And, did you order your crayons, or leave them all willy-nilly how the crayon company packages them??? 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Music Notes for Mom

I hope you're all enjoying my Diary Quilt Blocks; I enjoy writing up their little stories and sharing them with you.

This block was a hard one. First it was hard to choose what to do -- I was stuck on one particular symbol that I just could not represent in fabric. My mom started a bell collection for me as a child, and I carried those bells to every bedroom I lived in from childhood to college, and then they came with me to all the homes The Chemist and I lived in as a married couple, all the way until the last place we lived before moving to Brazil.

That bell collection symbolized, to me, the gift-giving spirit of my mom, and I so badly wanted to put it into fabric, into a six inch square, but couldn't. Thus defeated, I faced a mental block I just could not get past.

Finally I took a closer look at this block, which I'd seen from day one. Every time I saw it I thought, "That is so Mom." And every time, I flipped right past it, because I don't do embroidery.

my very puckered attempt at an embroidery block
fabric is a soft rose color, though it doesn't show up well
music notes and treble clef are chocolate brown
This weekend, I saw it again and gave in to the inevitable. Music is as much my mother's soul as the ocean waves are mine. There is nothing better to sum her up than a music staff and notes, and no better way to do so than with the embroidery that she used to do and love. Well, maybe *better* embroidery, but she'll have to settle for my best, which is good enough but not anywhere near great.

I did not inherit any of her musical talent, at all. I once drove a friend crazy because I can't even clap on beat. She, this friend, mentioned something about my talent for clapping on the down beat instead of the up beat, but I have no idea what she was talking about.

Another friend once told me I was flat, and I embarrassed myself by not realizing she was talking about my singing voice. Okay, maybe that's flat too. Again, I had no idea. Like I said, I inherited zero talent for music, though I do love to listen.

Luckily, I did inherit some of my grandma's artistic ability, and I can at least draw music notes, even if I can't sing them. So that's what I did, I drew a treble clef and a couple notes onto this pink fabric (I did look at a sample block, but I drew freehand, not tracing), and then I spent a grueling five hours stitching an outline stitch over every inch of chalk, until I had these beautifully outlined notes and music staff to show for my hard work.

Because I've never done embroidery, even though I grew up watching my mom do cross-stitch, I forgot all about using an embroidery hoop. It wasn't until I was about three-quarters done that I realized the reason for the puckering fabric was the missing hoop. Oops. At that point, I didn't care. Now that I've ironed the block, though, the puckering and wrinkles look worse than they did before. I can only hope that when I wash the quilt, eventually, the rest of the fabric will pucker some and match. -sigh-

I do think it's a fitting block, though. I have a deep and great appreciation for music, if no talent to match it.  Music is not quite as much a part of my soul as it is my mom's, but it's definitely an ingrained component. The iPod is on all day long, and many songs arrest me and stop me in my tracks. Music is a shared love between my mom and I, and I credit my appreciation for it to her influence.

This was a hard block to make, but I'm mostly pleased with the overall result. I'm very pleased with the finally chosen symbol of my mom -- music is in her DNA as the ocean is in mine, and is one passion she and I share.

Is there some shared interest you have with your mom? Tell me about it. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Delectable Mountain: Of Camping Trips and a Love of Nature

The next block in my Diary Quilt -- Delectable Mountain -- is for my dad. And it's fitting I post this today, as today is his birthday.  Happy Birthday, Dad!

Delectable Mountain -- for my Dad

When I was first flipping through the idea book, I spotted this block and new right away -- Dad. It instantly called to mind all the camping trips we took when I was a kid, the respect for nature that has been instilled in me from birth. 
We traveled all over the country, not always in comfort, but always with a soundtrack of fun and laughter.

I learned at a very early age to leave nothing behind but footprints, take nothing away but memories & photographs. The last thing we did at any campsite was to walk the area and pick up every scrap of trash, whether we were the ones who'd dropped it or not. Of course I didn't love that part as a kid, but I came to appreciate it later, once I realized what it meant and why we were doing it.

I learned too that if we wanted to spot any deer, birds, or other wildlife, to walk quietly; not let my presence be known. Just one little step in valuing nature and the wonders of the natural world, rather than taking things for granted.

As a child, I saw much of the western and mid-western United States, famous landmarks and obscure locations alike. I guess it's rubbed off, as I now drag my boys around to all the hidden and not-so-hidden gems here in Brazil.

One fun tidbit -- I took my very first steps on a camping trip, in an orange pup tent. Thirty years later, more or less, The Adventurer took his first steps on a similar camping trip. I guess I'm doing a decent job of passing Dad's legacy on to the next generation.

Do you have a fun camping memory to share?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Christmas Star Block: Family Time, not just Christmastime

When I look back on my life so far, I remember quite fondly all the times of family togetherness that filled my childhood and teen years and on into adulthood.  Christmases, Easters, 4th-of-July, Sunday dinners.  Thanksgivings and Mother's Days.  Holidays spent with family, my whole life through.

I chose the Christmas Star block as the second block for my Diary Quilt, to represent those Christmastime memories, but not just Christmastime; Family Time.

Christmas Star block with (pinned on) Ojo de Dios ornament as embellishment
The embellishment in the center is a pinned on Ojo de Dios tree ornament, a nod to our tree decorations many of my growing up years. My grandmother is an artist, and her tree decorations were never traditional. One year we had painted yucca blossoms. Another year, chili peppers. I'm told that one year she dragged home a bit of dried wood or drift wood and used that.

Often we had Ojos on our trees, and one year my dad decorated only a small Christmas Cactus, hung all over with Ojos just like the one on my quilt square. I can't look at an Ojo without thinking of my family, sitting with my dad and wrapping embroidery thread around toothpicks.

The one on my block I've left unfinished, with room for more string to be added, as a nod to family time yet to come. In this way, the Ojo symbolizes Christmases Past as well as Christmases Yet to Come. I look forward to one day hearing what memories my boys will tell their children, memories in the making even now.

Do you have a favorite holiday memory? From childhood or your adult years? Is there something that to you means "family" or "Christmas" that might seem odd to someone else? I'd love to hear your stories....

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sunbeam in Fabric

I continue to work on my latest project, the Diary Quilt. I jumped ahead several blocks because I was cutting this color fabric (the turquoise) and wanted to try this, the hardest block in the whole plan. It is the only block where the individual units don't finish out to squares or rectangles, I think.

Oh, that's not correct. There's one more, but it will not be as hard as this one.

So, I tried this block -- a Sunbeam, adapted from a 1929 pattern originally published in the Kansas City Star newspaper.  My grandma has been scanning these into her computer (she has roughly 150, originally saved by my grandpa's mother) and then emailing the scans out to the family.

The pattern is for a 12 inch block; my Diary Quilt is made up of six inch blocks. Add in the fact I don't have the original, and no way to know if the file I have printed at full size or not, and then that I tweaked the changed measurements some, and, well, my first attempt was epic fail. I could not get the beige pieces to line up square.  At all.

The fans, sewn to the beige wedges and laid out how they'd eventually be sewn together.
At this point, the turquoise and yellow were partly reversed, too.  Oops.

I emailed the pros who help me out from time to time, and got back a few different suggestions. I begged my Mentor to use her fancy computer program to re-draw the block for me and give me the correct measurements. She did!

So I re-cut and tried again, and after one more false start finally figured out the human error bit of the problem -- I was lining up the point of the beige wedge with the corner where the turquoise and yellow met. I should have been lining up the intersection of the drawn lines, the seam allowances, instead. The place where the corner or point would be once the pieces were sewn together, not the place where the point was when I started. Oops.

I figured that out and got all the fan pieces attached to the framing wedges. Then I was stumped -- what order to connect all my units?? And connect them to the center square????  Once again, I asked for help.

I sewed two pieces of frame together. I sewed those to the inner square. I sewed two more pieces of frame together. I sewed those to the inner square. Then I connected the two sides of the frame to each other.

See, the points line up pretty well....
Every step of the way, I laid my block-in-progress on my sewing mat, to see if it was square. And every step of the way, it was. Or, if it wasn't, I took out the stitches, fixed it, pinned a little better and tried again. And then it was fine.

...but my beige frame pieces are back to being crooked, mostly at that top right corner.

All the way up to the end, when one side went really, really crooked. At that point, I stopped anyway. I'm setting this block aside for now, and will come back to it once I reach this point in the quilt. From this point forward, I'll proceed in chronological order. Once I've got some easier blocks behind me, I'll try again at my sunbeam.

I do think it will be quite nice when I get it finished, but for now, I need something I can do well. Squares and triangles, thank you very much.

What about you? When you try something and it doesn't go well, do you tackle it again right away? Leave it as "good enough?"  Keep trying until it's just right? How do you handle project frustrations??

Thursday, April 7, 2011

86 Uncle: The Airplane Block

In preparing my Diary Quilt, I jotted down my most vivid memories from all ages of my life thus far.

The absolute clearest memory from my early childhood really isn't a single memory at all, but a patchwork itself of many trips over the years, all taken in one small airplane, piloted by my grandfather.

may need to be trimmed/added on to yet
done using this tutorial
the 86U is embroidered on, a 1st for me!

I'm told that my very first trip up was exactly, to the minute, one week after my birth. Many trips followed, sometimes just going up in the air and circling our city below, sometimes heading off to distant (or not so) locales.

Many of these trips were to a certain island near us, accessible only by plane or boat. I remember my Grandpa laughing as he pointed out that the "No Trespassing" signs were only on the beach side, thus clearly only applied to those coming in by boat and not those of us coming by plane.

I remember playing with an airplane wheel, a discard given to my sister and I. We stored it under a bush in the backyard, and pulled it out for all kinds of games.

I grew up, and that plane was always there. Grandpa always referred to it by a portion of the call letters: "8-6-Uncle" and so I came to know it that way as well.  I brought a group of friends home from college and what did we do? Went up for rides in 8-6-Uncle.

I got married, had kids of my own, and Grandpa took me up for flying lessons. I think he was disappointed I didn't quite have the same knack for flying that my dad & his siblings all had. Too many instruments, and too many numbers to watch all at the same time. But what fun it was, trying to learn, my Grandpa patiently showing me what to do, passing down his passion, pouring himself into his oldest granddaughter.  I didn't learn, but I'll never forget that single day he spent trying to teach me.

Eventually the plane was sold, but I will never forget 8-6-Uncle, flying through the decades, carrying me from one happy memory of my grandfather to the next.

What happy memory do you have of your grandfather? 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fabric! Let the Diary Quilt Begin.....

Several years ago now, my Aunt Carolyn and my cousin Debbie got together and made a Diary Quilt as a gift for my cousin Jennifer. They followed a book, A Quilter's Diary Written in Stitches, by Mimi Dietrich. 

This quilt, the plans for it anyway, was perhaps the single exposure to quilting that made me think it might, one day, be something I'd like to do. The thought of telling one's life story in fabric had a very intriguing appeal to it, particularly for me. I was, at the time, an avid scrapbooker, though, so I gave little further thought to making a Diary Quilt. I mean, at the time, I thought I didn't know how to sew.

Life went on. I met a few other folks who quilted. Two ladies I'm honored to call my friends, one a very advanced quilter and one who's more advanced than me (and quite good!) but considers herself a beginner. I ooh'ed and aah'ed over their creations and that little spark of interest was kindled.

Then one summer, one of these good friends introduced me to the concept of Jelly Rolls -- pre-cut strips of a certain width, and rolled together in pre-selected, coordinating colors. Whole patterns, whole books of patterns!, exist for making use of these Jelly Rolls and turning them into quilts. It seemed like a nice, gentle introduction to the quilting world for a beginner, and machine-less beginner at that!, like me.

I'd already made one entire quilt block for the other dear friend, so armed with that and an idea, I took my mom shopping. We went to a few quilt shops, and eventually decided on the red white and blue project I've been working on lately.

But ever in the back of my mind has been the idea of this Diary Quilt. 

Yes, I've got other projects already before me. There's a certain Christmas Tree Skirt just waiting to be started. And the boys are out-growing some favorite t-shirts, which I'm thinking will make a nice t-shirt quilt or three. And I'd love to do a specifically Brazil quilt, just as I'm doing the red white & blue quilt. And then my Grandma is sending me patterns from the 1930s, saved by my grandpa's mother, and I'd love to get some 30's reproduction fabrics and do something with some of that. And, well, the ideas keep coming and my friends keep laughing to know I've truly been bit by the quilting bug. 

But this Diary's my story. In symbols, and pictures, and fabric, and color, and thread. It's challenging. It's a tribute to many. It's history in the making, to be passed down to my boys and hopefully on through the family for years to come. It will be something the boys can see, and touch, and know me. Not the me they see every day, the teacher, the mom, the disciplinarian, but ME. What memories from childhood shaped me, grew me, stayed with me. What happened then to make me who I am now.

It's my story, and these fabrics will help me tell it. Each one chosen with a specific person in mind, to represent a specific touch on my life. The black will be the border and sashing, the beige that lies below everything will be the background. The rest will make up the pictures, the blocks, the symbols, the bits & pieces of my story, symbolizing the people and the moments that have shaped my life.

fabric of my life
click photo to enlarge
It's my story, and I can't wait to share snippets of it with you...