Tuesday, February 21, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Quilt

This is not a family favorite story, but I just had to have a moment and brag on myself. I finished this Double Irish Chain with a Seminole border on Monday evening. It has been almost a year to the day that I started cutting the material to piece this quilt.

For quite a while as my husband and I would see interesting fabrics we'd purchase a yard or two with a potential quilt theme in mind. I now have a large rubbermaid tub filled to the brim with an assortment of quilting fabrics. Over the past several years I ended up with about six different St. Patrick's day fabrics with the thoughts of one day making a St. Pat's themed quilt.

One day I came across a quilting book with a beautiful Double Irish Chain Quilt on the cover. The design "spoke to me" and I so wanted to make such a quilt. At this point the only quilt patterns I had ever used were the ones where I took a class and learned from an expert. As a novice quilter, I scanned the pages of the book and thought that I could probably muddle my way through the directions and make this type of quilt. I bought the book and promptly put it on my craft shelf in the basement to collect dust.

On yet another shopping expedition far removed from the quilt book purchase, I came across this white background fabric. It's a fabric that is just so me. It has a retro feel, with a nod to tradition but is not traditional in nature. I love all the tones of green from the yellow-green, khaki, bold green, to the blue-green. The overlays of shamrocks,different sizes, and patterns has a great earthy feel. As soon as I saw the fabric, I knew just the quilt pattern to use, yep, my Double Irish Chain.

I searched through my rubbermaid tub of fabrics for two equally great fabrics to complement my white St. Pat's fabric. I selected the black background fabric with delicate green shamrocks and golden wispy vines. I had contrast and now needed a particular green to unify both fabrics. My tub of fabrics didn't make the cut. Off I went to the local fabric stores to hunt for the missing fabric. I finally found the green tie-dye fabric.

Because I purchased the black fabric a year or two before, with no specific quilt pattern in mind I barely had enough to complete this quilt pattern. I could not find more of this same fabric in stores or on the web to ensure I'd have enough. I had to use greater care than typical in cutting each strip and square so that I did not waste a single inch. When every black square was cut, I had just fractions of an inch of scrap fabric left. Whew!

I cut the rest of the fabrics, began sewing and ironing until I had a lovely quilt top finished. Then I began hunting for backing fabric. I typically buy cotton fabric backing that is approximately 108 inches wide. This way I don't have to piece the backing fabric to fit the quilt top. The drawback to the extra wide width is that the fabric selection is not plentiful. I ended up buying a creamy white fabric that was 42 inches wide. This meant that I would have to cut the yardage and sew it in such a way to end up being about four inches bigger on all four sides than the quilt top. Another first for me.

Now I was ready to take it to the lady that sews all the layers together- the quilt top, the batting, and the backing. This is the one step is the quilting process that I don't typically do myself. Once she is finished then I have one last step before the quilt is complete. I sew the binding.

The binding covers the raw edges of the quilt with a fabric trim. The initial part is machine stitched and then the final part is completed with hand-stitching. I typically tote my quilt in a overnight bag everywhere for weeks and sew. I took this one on several trips back and forth to T-Man's college and it went to FL for Christmas. I finally took my last stitch on this quilt at the end of February.

Since I've been carrying the quilt around for about nine months, the cats (my twins) have been sleeping in and all over it. (It doesn't take nine months to sew the binding. Just a week or two every evening, but for me that can translate into nine months.) Needless to say it was covered in cat hair and in need of a serious washing. Now it's washed and resting on my quilt rack and it's on to the next project.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why I Blog/Write Part I

As you can tell, I've been off the grid for awhile now. My writing phobia/paranoia returned with a vengeance in the spring of 2011, paralyzing my desire and ability to write. Slowly over the past few months the desire and confidence to write has begun to return. Although, my palms are sweating and my heart is racing as I type this.

I've often wanted to share what prompted me to write/blog my thoughts and the stories of my life. I was never much of a writer before my foray into blogging. Blogging has become the perfect medium for my writing. I have always had a love/hate relationship with writing, hence the need for several parts to this topic. The following will be a condensed version of my writing history.

As a young student, I always hated creative writing. I could never think of anything to fill up even one sheet of paper. I always thought my life was so typical, ordinary, and there was nothing to say. I could never come up with a topic much less generate anything to say when given a topic. I couldn't draw upon any details or spin a story. It seemed strange that someone who is never at a loss for words and is always talking could be stumped when it came to writing those words. I don't know if I just wasn't paying attention to my teachers as they taught writing, if my teachers really didn't know how to teach me to be a creative writer, or if even back then I couldn't bare to reveal myself to others in such a potentially lasting way.

Even though I couldn't stand to write I loved reading and had this romantic notion of writers. The idea of "writing" and even publishing a book seemed incredibility thrilling. How talented, committed, consumed, and bohemian writers must be. Writers seemed to be other worldly in my mind's eye. I definitely was not writer material.

So how did I end up becoming a "writer"? Basically, I ended up becoming an elementary teacher and had to teach my students to write. I have to admit that early in my career I stumbled about as I taught my students writing. Oh, I read books about teaching writing, went to workshops, and looked at the work other teachers got from their students. I still didn't feel a passion for writing, couldn't quite get at how to get stories to flow from the brain to the paper, and did not instill any passion in my students.

Finally my teaching of writing and my personal writing changed with the curriculum that Lucy Calkins wrote. As I read the detailed elements of how Lucy set-up a writing environment, taught children to generate ideas, and explore different mediums; I began to learn how to write the stories of my life. One thing that all writing experts say is that the teacher of writing must be a writer and should share some of their writing with their students. I slowly began writing at home (figuratively alongside my students) determined to grow as I expected them to grow. Over the past four years I've worked hard to tell my stories well.

With an awakening need to write, I'm dipping my toes into the ink. I'll take some slow languid strokes across the page with the hope that passion and daring will consume me. Those simple easy strokes will start out with some old family favorite stories; the stories my children and husband have often asked me to write. I'll write those stories they can't believe I haven't written, stories of tornadoes, snow storms, a lost diamond, stories of births, and those events in life that you convince yourself that with enough distance and perspective will one day be funny.