Friday, May 27, 2011

The V Block: Our Family

to "read" this block in order, read each row on its own.
Top row: Chemist and Reader
Second Row, L to R: The Writer and The Artist
Bottom Row: The Adventurer
This block is probably going to be my most favorite block in the entire quilt. This block will for sure be the most unique block in the entire quilt, without a doubt.

The meaning is very simple, really, but I want to tell a little about the block itself. My Grandma has been sending me scans of various Kansas City Star quilt block patterns, originally saved from the paper by my Grandpa's mother.

The first block she sent me was The V Block, which looks a little bit like the one I've done. I learned the hard way with another block that converting scans of patterns for 12 inch blocks into workable patterns for 6 inch blocks is a bit above my skill level, so for this one I chose to do an applique instead, cutting out V shapes in paper, tracing them onto my fabric choices and setting them in the arrangement given in the KCS pattern I had. So, inspired by, but not a direct version of, the V block sent down to me through the generations.

The fabric choices were easy -- one of the first things I did when choosing blocks, color patterns, etc. was to choose a color for each member of my family. The color is loosely based on birth stone color for each, and each of my boys knows his own color intimately as I use these colors a lot for my boys. The Chemist helped me choose fabric that he thought felt like each boy (himself included), and there you have it -- each one of us, in fabric, all together making up our family.

The Vs all overlap, so they are quite literally stitched together, forever joined.

Just like us.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

True Love's Knot: Not Another Mushy Blog Post

I will spare the mushyness this time, but still wanted to show this block for the Diary Quilt.

As I chose a block to symbolize our wedding, I had several to pick from but immediately I knew this would be the one I'd use. Two strands, woven together, stronger because of the weaving, a beautiful pattern created by the joining of two into one.

The perfect symbol of my joining with The Chemist, his joining with me. Together, stronger than alone. Together, a greater beauty than before. Together, inseparable, woven into one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Compass: Finding my Way Home

Compass Block: a foray into applique...
(pardon the too long green point top left...I'll rotate the block when I get to connecting blocks into rows)
College. A time for sorting out, finding yourself, learning stuff, and growing up from teen to adult, that four year bridge from the child you were to the adult you will be.

Isn't that what it really is for most of us? Sure, sure, we're learning whatever skills are necessary to the degree we're pursuing, the career we hope to have but it seems to me that what college was really about was finding myself. At least for me.

And that's what this block is about -- the things, people, places and experiences that all helped me find my way home, back to who I wanted to be.

This block contains a lot of symbolism -- every color, and positioning of the points, is symbolic. Tied up in this block are tributes to my college, my now husband, and a trip to New York City, with myself as the center disc, finding my way.

The details of my journey, of what got me lost in the first place, aren't particularly important or suited for public viewing, but suffice it to say I hit a point in college where I wasn't sure what I wanted from life or who I wanted to be. That lostness hit crisis point just before a summer long mission trip to New York City, which turned out to be a really good thing.

If you've ever taken a trip, alone, to a distant city you'll understand this. For ten weeks I was paired up with a stranger as we worked as Sunday School teachers, Vacation Bible School leaders, and in general mentors to the youth of an inner city church in Queens. We had a lot of down time, and so I had plenty of time to reflect, and think, and pray, and try to sort out where to go next.

I'd left many things up in the air back home, and those ten weeks of introspection were incredibly healing for me. I learned a lot about myself, discovered strengths I didn't know I had, realized which passions were fleeting and which were not.

Once back at school, I started to see more clearly who my friends were and who I was in relation to them. New York had seeped into my soul, and I knew I could never forget it, nor would I ever be the same as I was before. Some people accepted that change in me, some did not. Some encouraged the passions that had floated to the forefront, some ignored them as fleeting or insignificant, as the silly dreams of a silly girl.

As I tried to understand what to do with all that I'd learned about myself, there was one person more than any other who just loved me and let me work it out, not trying to change me, not trying to talk me out of who I was becoming, not trying to force his ideas onto my psyche. He stayed in the background, where I'd sent him, and stayed my friend through everything. And yet, with all of the changes going on, my heart kept calling out to him. Eventually I realized this about myself -- that my heart, my soul, my self was calling out to my way home. Like the needle of a compass pointing to true north.

And so it was that, though I had actually broken up with The Chemist, and though we spent ten months not dating during college, and though it took me still a few months after returning from New York, that I finally recognized what he had known all along -- that who I truly was, at the very core of my being, more than anything else, was his other half (and he mine). That even though I came back changed after New York, even though I had new ideas and passions and plans for my life, there was one thing I couldn't bear to change: us.

And so in the end, with all the lessons I'd learned in college, with all of who I'd become during those four years, with all of the growth that happened over a summer in New York, I followed my heart, the needle of my compass, and found my way Home at last.

Did you ever have a time of finding yourself? Did what you found, surprise you? 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Card Tricks -- a block for my high school sweetheart

The next block in my diary quilt is called Card Tricks. Let me tell you the story of why......
Card Tricks
For a courtship that happened over a deck of cards....
Once upon a time, there was a young man, a cute teenage boy, who had a crush on a girl. This boy was, at the time, heartbroken over a recent break up and the girl, oblivious to the crush, was doing her best to be his friend and help him over his broken heart.

Every day they would meet in the school cafeteria, with several other friends from their church, and these two would eat their lunch, and talk with their friends, and laugh at each other and in the final moments before time to head off to class they would play a card game called Speed

He would deal out the cards and lay out the board, and she would get ready, one hand ready to flip cards and one hand holding the 5 allowed at one time, and eyes poised on the board, anticipating a win. He would do the same, only, of course, he would fear to lose. 

On that first day, they played for best 3 of 5 hands. Back and forth it went, taking all five rounds, until probably she was declared the winner. And then being a boy, he challenged her to best 5 of 7, to finish up the next day because there was the bell and time for class. 

And so the next day came and the game was played and he somehow pulled off a victory. And being a gentleman and not wanting to crush this sweet girl, and probably because secretly he enjoyed this time with her but she didn't realize that motivation yet, he allowed to extend the tournament to best 7 of 9, which this time she won. 

Day after day, week after week this went on. Back and forth, back and forth. First she won a round, and then he won, and neither one wanting it to be over and certainly neither one willing to admit defeat, the tournament extended for three months. 

And eventually, at a birthday party for mutual friends, the boy and the girl finished the tournament with 150 games played and a final score of something like 78 to 72 or maybe 76 to 74 or really who knows anymore, because the thing of it is, at that birthday party the boy finally had an opportune moment to ask the girl to be his girlfriend, and the girl finally realized that there was more at stake here than just a card game and so she said yes, and in that moment they both knew that two could win at this game. 

And the boy and the girl rode off into the sunset and lived happily ever after, playing cards all along the way. 

Do you have a favorite card game? Or do you and your significant other have a favorite (family friendly!) pass time? Let's hear it! 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Spending Time with my Grandma...

I'm flying through the blocks for my Diary Quilt, and just sent off an email this morning about these next two blocks, so it's time to share them here with all of you.

quote says "live, laugh, love" which embodies my (late) Uncle's approach to life
the thing up top is a Sputnik Lamp/Clock, one of his 50s Decor items
the colors are colors that remind me of my Grandma

"Jewel Box"
represents my years working for my Grandma at her Art Gallery
She sells Native American jewelry and art, as well as art by local artists from her area
The colors represent the stones (turquoise, coral) used most often in the Native American jewelry she sells.

Both of these are for my Grandma, who was a huge influence in my life. Through my very tumultuous high school years, she was sort of the anchor, the steadfastness, the security that I needed. She poured a lot of time into me, in subtle ways that, at the time, just seemed like normal Grandma/Grandkid stuff.

And, on one level, they were. She's just that kind of Grandma, and all through my life she was there. Painting lessons when I was young (she's the source of all the creative genes in our family), and help with Halloween costumes (both in ideas and supplies), and as I grew older it was shopping trips and a job.

My Uncle Ron introduced all of us to the wonders of shopping at ritzy resale shops in our area, and the joys of finding bargains. Clothes, fashionable and well made and designer labels, tags often still on. Discarded by the wealthy and picked up for a steal by us normal folk. For a teenager who had to buy all her own clothes, this was a true treasure trove.

And stuff. He shopped mainly for 50's era furniture and decorative items; his house was gorgeously decorated in a 50s retro look, mostly all with vintage stuff he found at resale shops. And he took us along on these shopping trips, visiting thrift shops and finding what treasures they had to offer.

I loved it. Not just the bargain hunting, which was awesome, but also the time with my Grandma and my Uncle Ron, and later on with my Aunt Brita as well. It was nice, with all the junk that was going on in my high school years, to have a safe haven of family who loved me and valued me and enjoyed spending time with me.

When I was 15, I asked my grandma to hire me at her art gallery. She did. I of course loved the chance to earn some money, but even more I loved spending each afternoon after school, and every Saturday, there with my Grandma and Grandpa. Those are some of my most cherished memories, and I continued to work there throughout high school, and then on weekends home from college, and then on an as-needed basis once I was home and married and a stay-at-home Mom, all the way until we moved down here to Brazil.

It's no wonder, then, that I'm so close to my grandparents, and that they are so well represented in my quilt.

Who was a strong positive influence in your teenage life? Was it a family member, or someone else? 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Diary Quilt: A Key to Understanding...

I'm taking a break today from showing you pictures of my Diary Quilt, and instead am going to explain a little bit about it.

I gave a pretty thorough introduction post when I started, and this post won't duplicate that but will instead share a little bit of my thought processes along the way. How did I choose which blocks to include? How did I narrow down my life to these few images?

I hope this post will make the other Diary Quilt posts a bit more interesting to the non-quilters who read my blog, which I realize is the majority of you. Thanks, much, for bearing with me as I share this journey here on the blog.

The basic premise of the Diary Quilt is that the maker breaks his or her life into 5 or 10 year increments, then jots down the most vivid or significant memories for each segment.  Then it's time to flip through the book, or other quilt block sources, and decide which memories lend themselves well to being portrayed as a quilt block (or find a way to do so, if there's a bold enough memory that doesn't have an easy solution).

Mimi Dietrich has done a great job of compiling all sorts of blocks that work well for this, and the majority of my selections come from her book. Not all, but most. She also gives great tips for adding personal embellishments to the blocks, making each one your own, etc. so that the finished quilt truly tells your personal story.

So, that's what I did. And I wound up with various things -- a nice, neat 4-block row that I am calling "Heritage Row" -- the blocks I've shared so far that represent my grandparents and parents. Three blocks that together make up my elementary school and junior high school days. Four blocks that sum up my high school and college years. Those finish out my pre-married life.

Then there's a block for my wedding, and a block for each of my boys, and a block that symbolizes our family as a whole. A slew of blocks that encompass various aspects of motherhood and my life since then -- pets, and school books, and beach trips; frequent moves, and new friends, and a family of Americans living in Brazil.  Even a nod to my new hobby of quilting (and my lifelong pattern of creative hobbies).

And then blocks that look at the future -- continued travel, and dreams I hope will come true. Who knows, maybe one day I'll do a "Part Two" quilt, but for now I'm content to sew away, stitching together the stories that I'll one day tell my grandkids. A whole string of imperfect stitches, holding together the fabric pictures that sum up my life so far. There's a certain kind of deep-felt joy that comes from working on a project I know is going to matter to my loved ones.

I'm excited to work on this project, and thrilled to share it with each of you. I've worked quite a ways ahead of the blog, because I make it a point to share each block with the person(s) who inspired it before I share it here with the rest of you, and I have to say -- the block I'm working on today is I think my favorite so far. The memories and thoughts that flood my mind while I sew are just pure happiness to revisit, which is I think my favorite thing about this quilt in general.

I can't wait to share the rest of my Diary Quilt with you, and I hope you enjoy reading my stories. If you were going to tell your story, what medium or means would you choose?? 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Puss in the Corner: For Kelly

I don't think this block needs a lot of explanation. If you've been around my blog awhile, you know about Kelly. If you haven't, read up on her. This will take you to all my blog posts about Kelly over the years.

If you have time to read only one post about her, this is the post I'd recommend: The First Birthday After.

She loved us, and we loved her, and then she was gone. With this block, she is remembered. Not for me, not for her, but for my boys who didn't get nearly long enough with her before she went home.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Broken Dishes: A Block About Divorce

Well, I've been putting this off for some time, but I can't move past this point without acknowledging this. I can't get to what comes after without addressing what came first.

This block is called Broken Dishes, but the name is not in any way symbolic of what my experience as a child of divorce was really like. There were no broken dishes, no huge angry battles, no scars on my psyche from this divorce.

Sure, it turned my 10 yr old life all topsy turvy, of course. But it didn't at all ruin my life or anything like that. Changed my life, yes. For bad, no.

Still I chose this block because it reminded me of Christmases spent between homes. Of weekends in a car, of friends in two cities, of two bedrooms just for me. Of packing bags, back and forth. Of love, not in one home but in two.

There was sadness, too, of course. If you are from a divorced home you know that. But through the sadness, I found strength. After the divorce, I found that I grew. It's that After that I would rather focus on, but of course I couldn't have reached After without first passing through Before.

Life is like that, sometimes, and that's what I want my boys to learn and to know when they read about this block in my Diary Quilt.