Tag Archives: family

Hands and Hearts — A Quilt From the Whole Family

Do you remember this piece? I made it in April as a “sketch,” just something to try forming shapes and colors and lines into a picture in appliqué. It’s a representation of a Claddagh ring. The traditional Irish symbol represents love (heart,) loyalty (crown,) and friendship (hands.)

The pretty heart in the middle was printed like that from fabric I bought eleven years ago. I drew the hands and crown from the basic Claddagh ring symbol. And then I encircled it with a ring of batik. It is all on a black Kona cotton background.

At the time I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it, or if I would do anything more. I considered the possibility of creating a small wedding gift for Son and his fiancée. But I didn’t have a plan.

 

Then about a month before the wedding, I started hankering to make that gift. I thought it would be meaningful to represent the closest family members in a personal way. Including Jim and me, our daughters’ families, and the bride’s parents and sibs’ families, there are 20 of us. Because there were already hands in it, I wanted to use a handprint from each. That required swift help from the bride’s family, as well as from our daughter who lives far away.

I asked for a photo of each family member’s hand, on a piece of white copy paper with all the edges showing. That would allow me to standardize the sizes to scale them as needed. Either hand, left or right, would do just fine. Here is my hand.

I cropped the images to standardize size around the paper, and Jim cleaned them all up to create a good outline for each, and to remove the wrists. (OW!)

He and I agreed on a size as compared to the hands in the Claddagh ring, and as they would appear on my monitor, and we re-scaled them all to that. I flipped each image and then traced each hand as it appeared on my monitor (basically as a light box) onto a separate piece of fusible web.

I’d already decided to use a different fabric for each of the family units (Jim and me, bride’s parents, older daughter and family, etc.) There were six different families, and six different fabrics used for the hands.

Besides manipulating the hand images, there also was the matter of the Claddagh ring. First, the pretty pink heart in the center somehow picked up a minor stain. Second, it was appliquéd on a relatively small piece of fabric. I wasn’t sure how big the quilt would be, but knew I needed more than the 15″ or so that the ring was on. Also, I thought the green batik ring by itself was a little stark, and I wanted to add leaves around it to create a wreath. Ultimately, I redid the Claddagh ring completely on a new background, large enough to contain whatever else came next.

I zigzagged the ring with leaves and the other components of the Claddagh symbol down to the background before dealing with the 20 hands. Then I began arranging the hands. Jim had already done a mock-up in Photoshop for me, so I had a pretty good plan to use. I put the parents’ and siblings’ hands in the first ring around the Claddagh, and then organized the sibs’ partners and children in the outer ring.

Here are a few pictures of the process as it developed. One of the families has seven members, so distributing those hands in a balanced way led many of the other decisions. Also, the tiny hands were paired with larger ones. Even when all the hands were in place, there were gaps that looked awkward. I filled them with more hearts cut from the same fabric as the center heart. Finally, I drew Celtic knots to add to the corners. Click on any picture to open the gallery. 

I knew that I wouldn’t stitch all the hands down with the domestic machine, as I was afraid that manipulating the fabric so much would loosen the adhesive and make the whole piece look worn and tired. Instead, I did raw-edge appliqué around the hands and across the palms when I quilted.

Besides the appliqué-quilting on the hands, I also did a small free-hand design within the black background, and once I got it off the frame, I went back to the domestic machine to zigzag the Celtic knots into submission.

Rather than applying a basic double-fold binding, I faced it with black to give the edge a smoother finish. When it was all done, I used a black Pigma pen on the muslin backing to write the names on each of the hands, and complete the labeling with the name of the quilt, the bride and groom, and the wedding date. Again, click either photo to open the gallery and see larger. 

I love that the quilt comes from the contribution of all the family members, and that Jim worked so closely with me on its design. The style is unique, maybe even quirky, certainly bordering on folk art. It’s also very personal, just as intended.

***

My running list of finishes for the year:
1. Fierce Little Bear
2. VA hospital quilt
3. VA hospital quilt
4. Charlotte’s Kitty
5. The Old School House
6. Georgia’s graduation quilt
7. Where Are the Birds? (landscape tree quilt)
8. ¡Fiesta!
9. Hands and Hearts
10. Shirt

 

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Finished and Mailed

Before our latest travel adventure, I finished the muslin mock-up. It was the whole cloth quilt I made to test my quilting pattern for one of the red and white quilts. All it needed was a binding, which I finished by machine.

A dear niece asked if she could buy it. While I’d be glad to sell a lot of my quilts, this wasn’t one of them. Truly, it was created as an experiment. While it turned out very pretty, I couldn’t in good conscience sell it to her. Instead, I offered it to her as a gift.

This morning I put it in the mail, along with a bobbin of the quilting thread so she can mend it when needed.

Quilt for Becca. 68″ x 68″. July 2017. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

It was darn hard to get a good picture. It was hard to light it evenly and to avoid washing out the contrast and texture provided by the quilting. Here are a couple of pix from before binding, so you can see the detail better.

Also see the prior blog post for more information on my process.

At any rate, I’m happy to have finished it and given it to someone who truly wanted it.

Kim’s Bright Garden

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and I’ve missed reading a lot of your posts, too. But here I am, finally with a day unscheduled and more flexible. In some ways I feel like I’m finally coming up for air. Whew!

Today I’ll start with Kim’s Bright Garden, a quilt finished on March 31 and opened Monday by Kim, aka Son’s girlfriend.

I started this project late last year after imagining a border built from variable stars on point. The imagined border had a pale yellow background for the blocks, with blue or lavender setting triangles. The star centers would be pieced, and centers and points would be from chalky pastels. The feeling would be floral, though without actual flowers or floral fabric. However, after I made 16 star centers and cut much of the rest, I felt unfocused and uncertain. As it turns out, it’s often wiser to begin a medallion quilt with a medallion or central motif. The center creates context and direction for what comes after.

After that rough start, I refocused by choosing a center block design and fabrics. I chose first borders and middle borders. After extensive puzzling, I designed and made the final borders. In March I quilted it and bound it. The binding is the same saturated yellow as in the center block.

Kim’s Bright Garden. 71″ x 71″. Finished March 2017. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Son has been traveling a lot for work. We finally had a chance to visit with Son and Kim Monday evening. After he unsealed the box, he handed it to her to open. She was very touched and pleased, to say the least. It was a good gift, made with love and received with generosity. 🙂

For Guild
Part of my busyness lately has been projects for guild. In the last few months I quilted 10 projects, two of which I did early this year. Each has required more prep work than I anticipated, so I’m putting more of these on hold for now.

Besides that I’m on the program committee, the guild’s group that sets up speakers and presentations for upcoming meetings. Currently we’re working on the 2018-19 year. It’s a big responsibility, as programs is where the majority of the annual budget goes, and we want to make sure members get their money’s worth. I’m newish on the committee and still learning the ropes. Fortunately, it’s a good group and I’m learning a lot.

We have a quilt show in early June, and I’m working on a couple of parts of the planning. The big contribution I hope to make is with a Powerpoint slideshow outlining the value of a quilt. Our show is held on the same weekend as the local (big, regional, juried) art fair, and many people attending won’t have quilting backgrounds. If my slideshow can explain what makes a quilt special, by the process and the value of time and materials, it might add to attendees’ appreciation of the quilts they see. And it might increase the bids they are willing to make on our silent auction offerings.

Besides the efforts for the benefit of the show, I’ve also worked on two quilts to enter. (It is non-judged, simply an exhibit to share the beauty of our work with others.) We’re having a special “red and white” exhibit and I’ve made two quilt tops for entry. Both still need to be quilted, bound, and labeled before our show.

More to come in the next few days, as I get back in the swing of writing some. Good to be here again! If you’re still reading, thanks so much!

Another New Christmas Stocking!

When I was a kid, the Christmas stocking was a feature of our family holiday celebration. My mom, an incredibly creative woman, made our stockings, decorating each differently. We all knew the stocking itself was a manifestation of her love for us. Besides that, the nuts, fruit, and candy in the stockings were a relatively large part of our presents. Last but not least, we were allowed to open our stockings immediately, because Santa filled them!

When our son was born, it was important to me that he have a stocking, too. I didn’t have the creative skills of my mom, so I bought one for him, which he still uses when at our home. On his first Christmas, Santa brought him one present, a small stuffed Curious George doll that fit just right into the top of that stocking. I’ll never forget the look of wonder on my son’s face when he locked eyes with the little monkey.

Last winter I made our son a new Christmas stocking, since he was far away. This year I made one for his girlfriend.

I wanted to keep with traditional colors, with fabric from my stash. However, I don’t stash Christmas fabrics, so I chose a mottled wine red for the stocking, and plaid for the cuff. The backing is a plain white muslin. Cotton batting makes it soft and pliable.

First I quilted the fabric with my long-arm. Because the fabric is plain, I wanted to make the quilting a little fancier. After looking at a couple of my books for inspiration, I decided to draw flowers and leaves with the thread.

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Here is the finished stocking.

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The other photos and instructions below are for Son’s stocking from last year. The pattern and process I used are all the same.

After quilting, I traced around my pattern. The pattern was drawn using the stocking he got as a baby, and it has a seam allowance included of approximately 1/2″.
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I drew and cut out two. Remember you need two sides to the stocking, and the foot needs to face both ways.
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To keep the edges corralled, I stitched quickly around the edges of each part separately. Then I pinned them, right sides together. Using my walking foot, I stitched around, leaving the top open.
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Then next step was to create a cuff. I decided how deep I wanted it (4.5″), doubled that (9″), and added an inch (10″). The inch was the seam allowance for both edges that would attach to the top edge of the stocking. I cut the piece 10″ deep. I also needed to know how long to make it. Honesty: this was a bit of fudging. What worked fine was using the width of the finished stocking, doubling it, and adding something like  1 1/4″. Because the cuff needs to fit around the stocking, you need a little extra leeway. Then I sewed my cuff along the 10″ edges, right sides together, to make a tube. The seam allowance here is probably a fat 1/4″. As I said, I fudged a little.
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I turned the cuff and folded it to make a tube half as deep, with right side of fabric on the outside. I pressed the fold edge all the way around. Then I tucked a piece of batting into the folded tube to give the cuff a little poof. You could skip that if you prefer.

With the stocking turned inside out, I pinned the cuff to open edge of the INSIDE of the stocking.
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Again using my walking foot, I stitched the cuff down around the top edge, back-stitching at the beginning and end to secure. Once turned right-side out, the cuff lies nicely around the top. Finally, I used a piece of grosgrain ribbon to create a loop, attaching it with zigzag stitching.

Here is the finished stocking, featuring Son’s first Christmas present from Santa. Next to it on the right is his original stocking, which served as the model.
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Mom

Mom’s birthday is today. In honor, I thought I’d re-run this post from two years ago.


This is a portrait of my mom, done in pastels when she was a young mother of five children. Today is Mom’s birthday. She died a few years ago. After my step-dad died, I ended up with the portrait. It hangs now in my quilt studio.

When I am working on projects, I have very little awareness of my surroundings. Unlike some people, who cherish special mementos around them, I don’t see anything except the work in front of me. But now and then I pause. When I look up and see Mom behind my long-arm, I’m surprised every time.

She could make anything. Sewing, tatting, needlepoint, crochet. Our community theatres enjoyed her talents as a costumer for many years. She created emperors and beggars, seven foot tall chickens and a cow, Tony and Maria and Officer Krupke. She remodeled bathrooms and kitchens and refinished furniture.

She didn’t leave a written legacy. No journals, no letters, never a greeting card. However, I do have a few other things from her I cherish.

I have three tangible items she made. One is a small wooden cabinet that hangs in our bathroom. Another is a cradle she made before our son was born. And another is a small standing cabinet, used in my childhood home as an end table in our living room. I won’t get to keep the cradle, ultimately, as it really belongs to our son.

As to intangible gifts, I think there are many. She was not a bigot, but welcomed people of all types into her heart. She gave me the gift of accepting others. She was frugal and ably met the challenges of a small budget with many expenses. She taught me how to be careful with money, too. She was imaginative, both in her ideas and in figuring out how to execute them. I immodestly will say, I think I learned by her example. She didn’t let other people’s ideas of what she should do rule her life, and she taught me that a woman can do whatever she chooses.

I didn’t inherit her Elizabeth Taylor-like beauty. I didn’t inherit her temper, more even than mine. But I still have the best of her in my heart. And every time I see her in my studio, I know my creative talents were nurtured by her example. Looking up, seeing her behind my long-arm, sharing my work with me, is a happy surprise every time.