Monday, May 29, 2017

Good Remembrances of Things Past

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with quilting and contains not-so-great photos

The American Cemetery in Normandy
My tradition on Memorial Day was to call my dad and brightly chirp "I remember you!"  He was one of the lucky World Ward II vets who returned home.  Just recently in Normandy and last year at the American Cemetery in Luxembourg and in so many other ways, we are reminded of the greatest generation and how so many lives were sacrificed.  So very sobering.  The purpose of our recent trip to France was so that John could see the Normandy Beaches and for me to see the Bayeux Tapestry.  But the beauty of this trip was that it was a constant reminder of our trip to France with my parents in 2003.

My dad and Claudia at a private salon, 2003
My parents were lucky in that they lived long and full lives.  But their decline at the end was difficult to witness.  They went from vibrancy and independence and lives of service to total dependence for daily living. After they died within 6 moths of one another, I remember asking someone how long would it take to get the images of their end days out of my mind and be able to remember them as they once were.  And this recent trip to Paris?  It has made me remember they as they were.  I felt like they were on this trip with John and me - in the best of ways.  There was a srolling accordionist at one of our dinners in Paris, and he played my dad's entire repertoire, with the exception of a tango, which I requested and he played.

Evening river cruise on the Seine

In 2003 my dad had a chance to accompany Claudia Hommel, a Chicago-based singer who specialized in French songs. I celebrated my 53rd birthday on the flight over to Paris in 2003.  This means John was 63, my mom was 75, and my dad was 78.  And to put these numbers into perspective, I am now 67 and John is 77.

My mom was so frail and so small and so blank for her last years.  So to see this picture from our trip 14 years ago is joyous.  We were in the Luxembourg Gardens having hot chocolate while my dad and John went to the Louvre.  When John and I arrived in Paris two weeks ago, our hotel room wasn't ready so we went out for a walk - and there we were:  right by the Luxembourg Gardens.

A truly memorable event on the 2003 trip was returning to Paris from the Dordogne on a train that broke down.  We had to wait 45 minutes for another engine.  So what did my dad and Claudia do?  They performed.  A few left the train car, but several more came in.  And my mom muttered - with Claudia translating for those around her -  "Ive been married to this man for over 50 years.  He's played gypsy funerals, Easter Bunny breakfasts, wedding, bar mitzvahs, but this is the first broken train. "

We spent an afternoon at Giverney, and it was delightful.  There is beauty in an autumn garden, and I recall that we pretty much had the gardens and Monet's house to ourselves.  But just recently in Giverney we encountered a mob scene.  Granted, the gardens were gorgeous and in full bloom.  And everyone was there.  90% of them had selfie sticks - pretty annoying.  What a contrast from October 2003 to May 2017!

The last time I saw Paris?  It was good.  Very good.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Back in the Groove, Sort of...

Jet lag is real.Even though there's only a 7 hour time difference between Chicago and Paris, we felt it.  The first day home I tried to pay for a Starbucks with my driver's license, which I grabbed before walking to town.  Luckily, the people in that shop know me and let me have my drink on credit.  Knowing I wouldn't be at my sharpest, I purposely left two projects which require lots of repetitive sewing.  This is a jelly roll set of fabric from Janet Clare's Aubade line my Moda.  These fabrics have a softness that remind me of Cristina, the young lady who has been quiting with me for 14 years.  While she has made several quilts - including quilts for others - in my studio.
 In all these years I have never made Cristina a quilt.  She has earned for BFA from Iowa and her Graphic Design certificate from COD and is living in her first apartment, a terrific loft in Pilson.  So this quilt is for her.  These are just the building blocks so far.  It's a special pressure doing something for someone with such a strong sense of design.  But I am going to pull out all the tricks I've taught her over the years and combine them with what she has taught me.

Julie's quilt is still on the floor.  It needs some borders so that it can be used as a bed quilt.  And I think I am going to make her some matching pillow cases.  I am intending this quilt to be light and airy and a nice contrast from the last quilt I made her.  With both of these quilts, I have loved touching all these fabrics but don't necessarily want them in my house.  So it's good to make these for people I love.
The only significance of this picture is the upper narrow shelf.  It has five sets of fabric that I am eager to turn into purses or totes.  But not right now...

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Leaving the Country and Coming Home to Medical Procedure

It's always a stress - albeit a good one - in getting ready to leave the country.  The "what if..." is always present.  So I'm trying to wrap things up before we head to Paris, Normandy, and the Loire Valley this Saturday.  What I worked hard to complete are two t-shirt quilts:

These quilts are for siblings.  Both went to St. Xavier for elementary school and Lyons Township for high school.  The red and yellow one is for the one who is graduating from Iowa State.  Now, all three of Janice's children have t-shirt quilts that will last their lifetimes.

This quilt is in 8 columns on the design wall.  I am hoping to get this into one piece before we leave.  John's middle child Julie is moving to Atlanta in August.  We are going to miss her dreadfully.  Somehow making this quilt is assuaging these feelings a bit, and we will just have to visit her often - and sleep under this quilt.  Her son Ryan, our oldest grandchild, just graduated from Ball State last weekend.  Ryan's brother Brandon is graduating from Lyons Township this month - he's heading to Colorado State.  And grandson Jack Mo is graduating this month, too - he's college-bound but I haven't heard his decision yet.  Big changes for our family!

At the recent Chicago MQG retreat in Racine, after making the blocks for Julie's quilt, I played - in 3-D.  I love quilts because they are flat.  So doing something dimensional is challenging for me.  Luckily, guildsters Melissa, Eileen, and Holly were there for some hand-holding. Sarah E just didn't seem to have the same issues I did.  I think I will try these patterns again.  Both require separating zippers, but these patterns are great fun.

And I tried - or am still trying - to redeem this retreat project from years ago.  I made additional blocks and now am pondering whether I want to sew them together and sub cut them or - ....

As often as I try to put these fabrics and these straps and this zipper and this pattern away, they all keep making their way back into a pile.  So this means a new duffel or tote pretty soon. 

The medical procedure is a GI one - my lower esophageal sphincter isn't working correctly.  My local GI referred me to Northwestern, and the Northwestern docs say this issue needs treatment.  I think it will be a minor one, but it's still surgery and I am figuring out - thanks to the Interventional Radiologists who worked wonders on me two years ago - the whole blood thinning issue and what to take to "bridge" the blood thinning while I stop my regular medication.  I am thrilled to have good insurance and some many terrific doctors.  And best of all?  One of my quilties, Holly, works at Northwestern and is terrific at hand-holding!

Recuperation will involved a one-night hospital stay and then a week of liquids and a week of stuff through straws.  Since I won't be able to focus on food, I can see a lot of sewing in my future the first 2 weeks of June.  A good thing...

Thursday, April 27, 2017

UFO, Inspiration, Design, and Retreats

 What a lovely spring it's been - perfect for walking and little road trips and a weekend getaway.   It's been a good time to finish a couple of small projects.  The red cork Hey Mercedes is something I started at the Fall Retreat in Racine.  I love this purse style, but it's not the best application of this terrific cork fabric.  Luckily, I lined it in a similar color to the cork.  I am working up my courage to do some top stitching.  And then this purse will be complete.

I quilted this cork fabric to the Soft and Stable interfacing. 
This gusset is such an important design element.  I am hoping with use that these pieces will fit together a bit better. Perhaps I could have done a better job of trimming and clipping.  Next time...
  This is another Sarah Lawson pattern, a Tudor bag. I've been wanting to make this bag for a while. The top picture shows the difference between the Sloan bag (my favorite for weekends) and the Tudor, which is perfect as a tote.  I took out some of the design elements because this fabric has such a great features.  There's an outer zip pocket, two inner pockets, and an inner sleeve to hold a water bottle.  There's a twin to this bag (it was my prototype) and now belongs my friend Jenny.  Same fabric, but different lining and handles.

My handymen were here, covering my design wall with gridded flannel fabric.  This fabric was something guildster Dani M was working with at the last retreat.  She graciously went shopping for me.  And it's only taken 6 months to get it on the wall.  I love it.  

At last Sunday's guild meeting one member showed these wonderful little boxes.  I was so taken by these that I totally forgot who brought them.  But I found the pattern and bought it - this will be on deck for the retreat.  I hope to make three and have zippers and infacing for Melissa and Eileen.

Here's a UFO that is so old..."How old is it?"  Well, it's so old that I was working on it at a retreat sitting across from Mary P, she who was our Chicago MQG president 2010-2011 and has been living in Texas for the past 4 years.   At last Sunday's meeting I was sitting with Melissa, and she had a couple of ideas for what to do with scraps, and one of them was for this pattern.  It uses cross-cut blocks.  And this made me go home and get out these blocks.  I have perhaps 60 of them and fabric for me.  When I was working on this, I had in mind Rossie H's Double Plus Good quilt.  But then I became disenchanted with what I was making.  Perhaps my crosses weren't wonky enough, and I think my insert strips were too wide. 
So I am trying to make the inserts narrower. This weekend might be the right time to redeem these blocks and make something functional.    The above tutorial from The Quilter's Table involves making blocks, sewing them together, and then cross-cutting them.  So, I'm thinking...
The other possibility for retreat sewing is taking a jelly roll of fabulous metallics  - Modern Backgrounds "Luster" by Zen Chic.  Two strips make 2 blocks.  With an outer border these blocks are 10" x 16".  Sometimes to make the best of sewing time at a retreat, a simple repetitive task is just the answer.  Also, to be absolutely honest, I just like touching these fabrics.  The picture below has the strips in pairs.  I just need to cut and pack them.

Going to the Siena Center in Racine is a privilege.  I'm taking with me a quilt to donate - Sister Claire will know what to do with it.  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Convo between a Quilter (me) and NonQuilter (Carol)

NonQuilter:  Would you be willing to contribute one of your pieces to my yearly Silent Auction for the Morgan Park Youth Ministry?
Quilter:  Sure.  A wall hanging? A tote? A Purse?
NonQuilter:  Could I commission a wall hanging? 
Quilter:  Sure. 
NonQuilter:  I would like something with a house in the middle.
Quilter:  Hmm, three houses with a house in the middle?
NonQuilter:  No, just a house.
Quilter:  What kind of house.
NonQuilter:  You know, a house...
Quilter:  Ranch?  Georgian? Victorian? Bungalow? Queen Anne?  What material - stucco? brick? frame?  What color?  Give me a clue.
NonQuilter:  uh...BLUE ! 
Quilter:  Ok, blue.  Navy? Light? Royal? Marine? Teal? 
NonQuilter:  Wait... ***sends a photo***
Quilter:  Ahhhhh...I get it.  So what size?
NonQuilter:  I don't know.
Quilter:  I live in a world of quarter-inch seams.  Get a ruler and give me a clue. 
NonQuilter:  I don't have a ruler.
Quilter:  What kind of crazy talk is this?
NonQuilter:  Well, I don't.  But the size of the wall hanging you gave me last year would be right.

Luckily, I remembered - vaguely - what I gave Caire last year.  And then more of the story unfolded.  This house is the actual home of the Catholic Youth Ministry of Morgan Park.  There is no link to post, but this group does have a Facebook page!  Happy to contribute to this organization.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

This, That, and the Other...

Future Project No 1 - a Sloan or a Tudor.  Bought straps at Crimson Tate and the zipper in Morocco.  Art Gallery Fabric by Leah Duncan. 

Future Project #2 - Quilties Holly and Sarah S went to QuiltCon in Savannah and shopped for me.  These two fabrics are some of the things they came come with.  Straps again from Crimson Tate and zipper - yes, Morocco. 

Future Project #3 - This fabric is what the quilties shopped for at QuiltCon in Sacramento last year.  At Crimson Tate I found this great strapping for the handles and a great zipper.

Putting away scraps is always an issue.  And sometimes I get distracted.  These two zippers found their way out of the zipper box and attached themselves to some of my favorite leftovers.   My buddy Cathy and granddaughter Nikki have these.  

Below is a pencil case and a modification (the taller one) by Anna Graham of Noodlehead.  This pattern is a free tutorial from her.  If you've been wanting to try a zippered pouch or pencil case, her tutorials are excellent - great directions and pictures.  Do you have zipper fear?  She'll help you get over it!
 Pencil Cases by Noodlehead. 

This is the backing for this quilt - I'm determined to get this finished.  Today.  Before I play.

Things I want to play with - part 1

Things I want to play with - Part 2

Things I want to play with - Part 3.  These fabrics are all from Quilty Mimi, and I think they might be a quilt for my college roommate Dodie's son Paul and his wife Susie.  She has said black and white, but I think the Asianness of these fabrics appeal to her.  To be figured out...
Every year I give my buddy Carol something for the Silent Auction which funds the Morgan Park Youth Center.  This year she is requesting a wall hanging of this house, which is the actual youth center.  So before any playing with purses and after finishing getting the one quilt together, I will work on this!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A New Home for an Old and Dear Quilt

When I was an emerging quilter in the 1980's, my sister and her husband had a big home in Freeport, Illinois.  She had a huge amount of home dec and upholstery fabrics left over from various projects, which I took to create this wall hanging.  These are log cabin blocks and show my penchant for non-traditional design - it's no surprise that I have found such a perfect home in the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild.  This piece hung in an open staircase happily the entire time the Thompsons were in Freeport.  Their move to St. Joe 15 years ago and a different house meant that this piece was really not the right thing to hang.  So, it's been folded up.  Paula recently returned it to me, and I have puzzled what to do with it.   

And that's where my buddy Carol comes in.  I met Carol in grad school at Chicago State in the 1970's, and we taught at Hyde Park HS together for 8 years.  We retired at the same time.  While I quilted full-time, Carol went back to school for another degree - this one in Pastoral Counseling/Care.  Commitment to the church and social justice ministries is the focus of her life.  I gave her this wall hanging of Paula's and asked if she might find an appropriate home.  And did she ever.  This piece now hangs in the Agatha O'Brien Room at Mercy Circle, Mother McAuley High School, at 99th and Pulaski in Chicago.  Agatha O'Brien came from Ireland to Chicago when she was 24 and lived until she was 32.  In those 8 years she established Mercy Hospital, the parochial school system, and an orphanage. in 1846 she established the first group of the Sisters of Mercy. 

I'm thankful to Carol for finding such a perfect spot and for saying Sister Agatha and I would have liked each other. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Off to the LongArmer!

For Janice's LT senior daughter
For Janice's college senior son

And just for fun.  Because.  Scraps.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Revisiting An Old Rivalry Through Quilting

It's T-Shirt Quilt season.  Two years ago I made a high school graduation quilt for Janice's high school senior daughter.  This year I am doing a quilt for her younger daughter's high school graduation from Lyons Township and also a quilt for her son who is graduating from Iowa State U.  These are both good kids who went to St. Francis for elementary school.Although I don't study t-shirts that closely, I do honor what the parent wants and try to make something that is balanced and interesting to look at.  And one shirt jumped out -  Huck Finsdale. And it made me laugh.

It took my back to my high school days at LT and the rivalry between my school and Hinsdale Central.  (I know these rivalries are common between schools that share a georgraphy).  In August of 2015 I spent 13 days in the hospital - 4 of them at LaGrange and the remainder at Hinsdale.  And again, I kept hearing about the difference between the two hospitals.  Those at Hinsdale would never work at LaGrange and vice versa.  Some things never change, eh?  (and I must note that my sister-in-law Chris taught at Hinsdale Central for her whole teaching career). 

Once I get these t-shirt quilts together, I want to do a couple of zippered pouches out of some scraps....

And I want to stroke and pet these Art Gallery Fabrics that I found for $7 a yard, which is a terrific price...

And I need to make a wall hanging for an auction that raises money and support for - well, I'll have to get back to you on the details.  My buddy Carol raises money every year for a Morgan Park Youth program.

This quilt went in the mail to my sister-in-law in Indiana who is having major surgery soon.  Perhaps it might provide as bit of comfort as she recuperates. To keep it light and airy, I batted it with a poly batting and kept the quilting simple.  It is wonderfully soft and light.

It's a rainy day.  Perfect for sewing and listening to NPR.