Monday, March 5, 2018

Pieces of Peace


Do you remember that song?  When I was a young girl, my mom would play that song on the piano while my sister and I would run about.  The lyrics and notes became part of our background and part of our subconscious.  I don't think I realized how much that song impacted me until recently.

A month or so ago, Rio's teacher asked me to help her school family, The Dolphins, out with a project.  Each family consists of about 13 kids from all grade levels.  They meet several times a week to learn life skills, to create community, and to celebrate each other.  I love this aspect of her school, and she does too.  So, back to the project.  Every year, each family creates an art project for their annual auction fundraiser.  Her teacher knew that I dabbled in fabric, so she asked if I'd be interested in helping out.

I sat on it for a while, trying to figure out what would be fun for the kids, simple enough for ages 4 - 12 to work on, would be desirable for the auction, and would be meaningful for their family.  Finally, I thought that a fabric mosaic would be perfect.  The next step was to figure out what image we wanted to create.  We toyed with a dolphin (their family mascot), a hand giving the peace sign, rainbows, the list goes on.  We landed on the traditional peace sign and the kids chose blue/turquoise for the actual sign and rose gold/pink for the background. 

I had a large amount of extra firm interfacing that I thought would be perfect for the project, so one evening Brent and I set out to create the image.  Brent is incredibly helpful in projects like this and I love when we collaborate creatively together.  We hit a few speed bumps in the process when it came to our markings, so we ended up cutting out the sign and placing it atop a full, uncut piece of interfacing.  I LOVE the 3-D effect that 'oops' gave us. 
I pulled out a good handful of fabrics close to their selected colors and cut out rectangles for them to use; smaller ones for the peace sign and larger ones for the background.  After getting some opinions from my quilt guild, we went with a glue stick to let the kids adhere the pieces to the interfacing.  It took them about three short sessions to get it all covered. 
Once I got my hands back on it, I slowly quilted each piece separately, making sure the fabric pieces weren't folding as I stitched over them. 
Next, I added bias tape to the edges of the peace sign.  When I started, I foolishly thought that I'd apply it just as I do a quilt, but once I hit the inside parts, I just couldn't get the binding to fold correctly, so I scrapped that method and simply zig-zag stitched the binding down as close to the edge as I could.  Then I went back over the other edges and zig-zagged so all of the bindings matched.  I am still determined to figure out how to do binding in the manner someday, though!  Finally, it was time to attach the peace sign to the background.  Since I left the 'sticky' side of the interfacing on the BACK of each piece, I first just ironed the backing fabric (more on that in a minute) onto the background piece and then I ironed the peace sign onto the front of the background.  Make sense?  Then I slowly stitched around the edge of the peace sign to secure it down completely, showing a faint outline of the peace sign on the back of the hanging.  The last step was to attach the binding to the background, which I DID do like I do a quilt, adding three loops so the piece can be easily hung up. 
Since their family mascot is the dolphin, we wanted to have the backing fabric with a dolphin on it!  Finding that fabric though, was NOT easy.  I looked through hundreds of novelty fabrics and this was the only aquatic fabric that I could find that had dolphins on it!  I love it though because it represents how peacefully they live together with everyone else, just as we should strive to do. 
The timing of this project comes when our country is in the middle of a heated conversation about the safety of our children in their schools and the accessibility of weaponry that we have.  As a parent of a school-aged child and as an educator, I have very strong opinions about this topic.  My answer is in within the project.  More peace.  More togetherness.  More community.  More projects.  Guess what I think there should be less of.  This project reminded me that we need to listen to our kids more.  They will guide us if we will open ourselves up to it. 
So I return to the song, which continues to play in my head, and I recommit to its message:  Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.  And you.  

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Story Of Rio And The Train

This morning, I received another message about Rio and the train.  I get notices like these every couple of weeks.  You see, last fall around the end of September, Rio and I experienced something quite special.  I wrote about it on my personal Facebook profile and it quickly went viral.  
Let me back up. Here's what happened and here is exactly what I wrote that day.

The most amazing and heartwarming thing happened this morning. My family's business moved into their new location about three years ago. It's located right along the train tracks which means we get a front row seat to all of the locomotive action. My daughter lives for it. It didn't take long for the conductors to notice her waving to them and for them to return those waves. As time progressed, it became their ritual. They'd blow their whistles, she'd run to the window, they'd open their windows, and everyone would wave and smile ear to ear. I teared up almost every single time.

Then a few weeks ago, my daughter started school.

Her transition to daily school hit me a little harder than I was expecting, but it hit me the hardest the first day the train came when she wasn't there. They blew their whistles, they opened their windows, but I was the only one standing there just crying and weakly waving. The next day I made a sign. I simply wrote 'She started school.' I heard the whistle, ran to the window, and held up my sign. That was three weeks ago.

This morning almost minutes after I walked into the shop, someone knocked on the door. It was a man in a bright yellow shirt with ear plugs hanging down. I assumed he was a construction worker coming to talk construction, because that's what we do here. I was wrong. He was there to ask about the little girl with the blonde hair that waved to the trains. He was one of the conductors and they'd all been wondering what had happened to her. Today they'd had a short train, so they stopped down the tracks, walked to our building, and knocked on our door. Oh did I cry. They had seen my sign, but couldn't make out what it said. They had assumed she'd started school, but had to make sure. He said that her waves had made their days. For three years they'd shared these moments.

They want to do something for her; they miss her. He asked if they could send her something, to which I said of course! They are going to send her a birthday present in a few weeks.

Witnessing their unconventional friendship over the past several years has been nothing short of magical. To know it impacted them just as much as it impacted us, fills me with love and hope. The visit today and their ongoing kindness to my daughter has reaffirmed my faith in goodness and humanity. These are moments we'll always remember.
Give yourself a moment.  It still chokes me up.

So, after I wrote the post and shared the two photos also shared here, I started getting messages and comments from friends asking me to make the post public.  I'm really fairly private online, and I see the absurdity in saying that as I write on my public blog, but when it comes to my kid, I share very, very little.  I finally decided to make it public for a few reasons.  I felt like it was a story that people needed to hear - we all needed uplifting!  I also felt like it didn't share much personal information and the photos didn't show her face.  Soon after making it public, a friend tagged a page called Love What Matters.  I'd never heard of it, but apparently most of the internet has.  They sent me a message and asked if they could share the story.  I talked to Brent and we gave them the OK to share.  

Then I went on my way to teach a Grammar class for two hours.  When I came out, my phone was on fire.  I had comments and messages overflowing and the Love What Matters post was quickly becoming mighty popular.  It was overwhelming and amazing.  For the first time EVER, I didn't see any negative comments on a viral post; it was all beautifully positive.

That night, I found myself very worried because I hadn't asked the conductors if I could share the story or not!  The gentleman who had come to the door had exchanged information with me.  I quickly sent him an email letting him know what had happened in the virtual world after he had left .  He was in just as much shock as I and was fine with the story being shared.  I sighed a breath of relief.  

The following days were crazy.  I was contacted by countless news outlets, some VERY big and reputable.  I only communicated with Good Morning America (I KNOW!), but in the end I didn't feel right about sharing her story with the world any further in that manner.  Even though I did not give permission to other publications to share the story, they went ahead and did so.  The headlines often made me laugh heartily.  "Conductors Saw Sign In Window, You'll Never Believe What Happened Next" and the like.  It was shared on allllllll sorts of sites all over the world.  I think I printed it up for Rio in 5 or 6 different languages?  It was expansive.  This story seemed to touch everyone.  

Even though I thought I had my social media on a pretty tight lock down, some stories had photos of our family and Rio's face.  I did contact those outlets asking that those photos be removed.  After a while though, I couldn't contact them all, so I let it be.  I can't imagine what it is like for those who have a negative or damning story go viral!  The internet is a strange, strange place.

After a week, I made my original post private but the Love What Matters post is still active with 17K engagements.  The comments are gold.  

Two weeks later was Rio's fifth birthday.  Our train friends, dubbed the Choo Choo Crew, dropped off a few train related presents for her.  While invited to the party, they were unable to make it.  We enjoyed a small backyard party with a few family and friends and lots of train-themed activities for the afternoon.  She doesn't know or understand the virtual side of the story, and at this point in her life, she doesn't need to.

Since then, I've become friends with the Crew online and I receive and return their waves until Rio has breaks from school.  On those days, the waves and smiles are twice as big.  I do feel that this is a story that should be shared so I'm currently (slowly) working on turning it into a children's book.  It just feels right.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The End Of The Forest

It doesn't happen very often that I have a vision for a completed quilt before I even begin it.  That's what happened with my favorite quilt that I've made so far.  

Remember at the end of last year when I made 500 pins for Philbrook?  That little side gig?  Seems like it was a dream, a million years ago when I look back on it.  I learned SO much from that experience and will always cherish the opportunity I had.  It was a little strange when I finished up the last pin, but I had other projects in mind to keep my hands busy!  The one I was most excited about starting was this quilt.  

When I finished up the Philbrook project, I found myself with TONS of scraps from the pins.  I knew exactly what I needed to do with them.  I needed to make one last tree.  This one.
I started out by sorting through my scrap pile, ironing each piece, and laying each of them out.  That alone took a good while.  Next, I started piecing.  Basically, I made about 10 large improv pieced blocks from the scraps, taking my time getting those seams consistent and pressing my heart out.  You would think all of that piecing took the longest, but it was actually the next step that was the most time consuming.  Figuring out how those 10 pieced blocks would fit together to form a large triangle was quite the head scratcher, but after much patience and tenacity, it all came together.  

I knew I wanted to use leaf-themed fabrics to frame the heart of the tree.  I used a 90s fabric I picked up at an estate sale and used the gorgeous outer leaf fabric that a dear friend gifted me.  I added a few smaller trees in the background to create the illusion of a forest and I outlined each tree in a small half-inch strip of brown.  I continued on adding the sky fabric, which I adore the effect of.  That was also a gifted fabric that was absolutely perfect for this quilt.  
Once I was done piecing all of that though, it felt like something was missing.  I wasn't fully pleased with the transition between the leaf fabrics.  They didn't seem defined enough so I started toying with my options.  For me, it came down to two choices.  Take apart everything I had done down to the first green layer of the tree, or applique something to the top.  That's when it hit me!  I had used tiny bias tape (a friend referred to it as microbinding, which I liked!) to bind each of those 500 little trees and still had some left over.  It was the missing piece.  This quilt needed some of that microbinding in there somewhere and appliqued over the trees was where it was supposed to be!  I quilted the entire thing first and then hand-sewed on the bias tape.  I ADORE it.  
In regards to quilting, I did two different things.  In the sky, I used my walking foot to quilt wavy lines, to give it an airy effect.  I used three different thread colors there - mostly black, dark blue, and dark purple.  On the trees, I used a dark green and quilted it in a spiraled triangle, much like I did many of the Philbrook trees.  I think this may be one of my best quilting jobs to date.
I backed it in another (!) gifted fabric.  It's hard to tell in the photo, but the backing is dark blue with black trees, owls, and moons all over it.  A perfect match.  
I bound it in a lemony-yellow tape with the help of Vinny, our newest family member.  The yellow calls back to the glow of the moon, to me.  
I am incredibly proud of this quilt.  Its overall concept, the story behind it, its execution, and the final product.  I was so excited to hang it last weekend and I'm excited to try and enter it in a few shows this year.  It's a little intimidating to continue on with other quilts because I don't feel like anything will live up to this one!  Although I have to remind myself that if I could make this one, I can make others that are just as powerful in different ways.  
Onto the next one!  Until later, my friends!

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Quilt Show Featuring...Me??

Last weekend, I had the extreme honor of being one of two featured quilters at the Southwoods Quilt and Fiber Festival!  I was floored to be asked and incredibly humbled to be able to share my quilts among so many talented makers.  It was the best way to start off the new year!  I debuted two new quilts, one of which is my favorite quilt I've ever made!  I'll share it in a separate post soon.  I had eights quilts total, some new and some old.  
Southwoods is actually a plant nursery that opens its doors to us fiber nuts the first weekend of January to fill the space with our works.  The lighting is perfection and the space is ideal for hanging a show!  Oh, and there were two alpacas; one a mom and the other her one month old baby.  ItwasthecutestthingIveeverseen!
This year, they made the addition of vintage quilts, which ended up being some of my favorite works. Make sure and read the description of the quilt below. 
And some sweet little peacocks.  Loved this one too.
Owl & Drum was set up with Stitch Craft and had a community quilt project going on!  Rio has recently starting sewing on her own (!!!!!!!!!!), so she was absolutely thrilled to sit at the machine and sew for a while!  She does the foot pedal and everything!  Pretty impressed and proud of her.
 
A little while after Rio had left, my Mimi showed up!  Mimi is my sewing mentor and all-around favorite person, so sharing the latter half of the show with her made my weekend.  :)
 
And one of my final highlights was welcoming this stunning work of art coat into my world!  Made by my friend (and quilter that I admire GREATLY), Jane Swanson, I am thrilled to get to wear this on the coldest of days!  It'll be making its debut with me tonight so I can survive our arctic air.  
So, that's a wrap!  The past few months have really been unbelievable for me in terms of hitting some creative goals.  The next step is figuring out how to continue that momentum, or if momentum should be the focus.  For now, my head is buried deep in a few other quilts.  Stitch by stitch by stitch.

(I spent a little time the past few days updating and adding to my website if you'd like to take a gander!  While you're there, sign up for my newsletter!  I've already sent out one diddy with another in the works!)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

You Were Swell, 2017

And just like that, 2017 saw itself out the door.  It was definitely my quietest year on the ol' blog, but I was busy living and doing!

First, and most importantly, I made myself a priority this year.  I started lightly running and walking (I wrote a bit about it here) and lately, I've been finding peace and fitness through yoga again.  It's been SO good physically and mentally for me.  Also good for my mental and physical health has been becoming vegetarian!  I haven't eaten any meat in over nine months now and it's been fantastic!  Rio doesn't eat much meat so I was always focusing on how to make sure to get the proper amount of protein into her without meat and I would often eat the same.  Then one day I realized that it had been a week or so since I had eaten meat myself!  It just happened.  I continued it and started educating myself more and more on complex proteins and the other nutrients that someone my age and activity level should be getting.  I will say, without a doubt, that I am eating the healthiest that I ever have been before!  It's not about anyone else and it's not for anyone else.  It's for me and it feels wonderful.  It's probably been one of the best things to happen to me this year.

For the first half of this year, I got back into reading for pleasure again.  I have fallen out of habit with it a bit, but I feel like I'm not far away from a reading binge again.  I read some really outstanding books that helped me see the world from different eyes.  I also read some real duds.  Ha!

On the bravery front, I traveled to visit my sister this summer!  I hadn't flown in quite some time, so getting on that plane was a HUGE deal for me.  It was a spectacular weekend with one of the most important people in my life.

Later this summer, Rio started school for the first time and it's been wonderful for us all!  Shortly after she started school, we had a surprise visitor, which I wrote about on my personal Facebook profile.  That post got picked up and went VIRAL, which has been the most bizarre and wonderful experience.  I hope to write about it more soon, in more ways than one, hint hint wink wink.

In regards to my teaching, I just completed ten years of teaching English as a Second Language!  I've said it before and I'll say it again, nothing fulfills me quite like teaching ESL.  What I learn from my students is priceless and I always wish I could share it all with the rest of the world.  Rewarding in innumerable ways.  I also stepped into a different classroom for a good chunk of the year and taught ESL in a factory for employees after they completed 12 hours shifts.  It was incredibly eye opening all around.

In my creative world, I achieved sooooo many of my goals!  My etsy shop FINALLY grew some legs, I made some of my favorite quilts yet, I gave three sewing-related presentations, I taught a bag-making class, and I made 500 little trees for Philbrook!  M'lord!  I finished up the year preparing a stack of quilts for a quilt show this upcoming weekend where I'll be one of two featured quilters!  Feeling pretty proud of myself.  :)

I also organized the 8th Annual Alliday Show at Retro Den.  Dare I say it?  Best show yet!  It's always a good handful of work, but it always worth it in the end.  Plus, it's such a joy to work with friends and creatives. 

There were a few life transitions this year.  Some good, some sad.  First, My Mimi turned 90!  She's an absolutely outstanding person that I will always strive to be like.  To call her family is a real treat.  Goodness, I love her.  Everyone who knows her loves her dearly. 

This was also the year that we said goodbye to Vera.  Vera was around 20 years old and had been with me for 15 years.  I adopted her when I was 23 years old and she passed when I was 38.  She was with me through all of my adult life and was my first pet that was truly my own.  I am beyond sad that she is gone but am so grateful for being able to spend so much of my life with her.  For her, I cut off 16" of my hair and donated it in her memory. 

For many different reasons, we welcomed a puppy into our home just two weeks ago!  His name is Vinny and we think he's a lab/shepard mix, much like Mondo.  He's a young three months right now and it's quite an adjustment having a puppy in the house again!  He's such a sweetheart though and I look forward to the future with him.

2017 got me riled up politically and made me more sure of what I believe.  I also learned to listen more, which has helped me grow and understand.  All in all, 2017 was a good year for me.  I'm excited to see what this new year holds and how it shall unfold.  Cheers!
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