Friday, October 21, 2011

Unexpected Blessings

The lights of the quilt shop that I frequent were glowing softly as I pulled into the parking lot tonight.  You might well ask what I was doing going to the shop after dark.  Well, tonight was a very special night - so special that I just had to write about it.  But first, before I tell you about the evening, I want you to take a moment to think of all the veterans that you know.  And while you are thinking of them, please take time to include their families in your thoughts.  I know that in my own family, we can count the veterans back through the generations to the Civil War and even beyond, to those soldiers who fought in European wars before our ancestors immigrated to the United States.  Family members that I know personally who are or were veterans include my grandfather, my father, my brother, and two uncles, as well as my father-in-law.  So service to country is something not unfamiliar to our family. 

My brother was stationed in Baghdad shortly after the war in Iraq began.  I vividly remember the panicky mornings I spent driving to work listening frantically to the news reports of bombings inside the supposedly safe Green Aone.  I would rush into work, log onto my computer, and try to find maps of the Green Zone to see if the bombings were anywhere near where my brother was, trying to decide if he was safe or not until I could get a reply to my anxious email telling me he was OK.  That was when being a family member of a veteran became personal to me.

When my local quilt shop became a Quilt of Valor shop, a group of ladies, including myself, were given the honor of creating quilt blocks and entire quilt tops to be given to veterans.  This project was begun by the mother of a veteran back in 2005, I believe - you can actually google Quilts of Valor and learn much more about the project than I can remember tonight.  Anyway, the purpose of the project is to give a quilt to veterans as a small token of appreciation for their service to our country.  The project was very intriguing to me, and as I've said, I am participating, although in a very small way.

Anyway, tonight at Bless My Stitches Quilt Shop, a small group of men and women gathered to honor a young man just back from Iraq and present him with a quilt.  I don't think that there are even any words to describe what an emotional experience it was to see this young man, not even 20 years old, with his mother and grandparents, to know that he is the recipient of a Purple Heart, and to watch him receive a Quilt of Valor.  How do I put into words what I felt learning of the bravery he has shown at such a young age?  Or voice even a modicum of the fears his mother must have experienced, or the joy when her son came back home to her? 

Standing in that quilt shop, looking at this young man, I fought back tears.  While I deplore war, at the same time I HAVE to be so incredibly grateful that there are people like this young man who are willing to put all the rest of us before their own lives, regardless of the reason for the war.  Without young men and women like the young man I met tonight, we would be without the many freedoms we take so much for granted. 

These were only a few of the thoughts that were running through my mind as he was thanking us for his quilt.  One thought that stood out from the rest was my thankfulness that this young man did not return to face an angry public like the one that my uncle met on his return from Viet Nam.  And just as that thought crossed my mind, our quilt shop owner picked up another quilt and gave it to a gentleman who, although I didn't ask, surely must have been a veteran of the Viet Nam War.  I think of the stoic, yet genuinely surprised and pleased look on that gentleman's face when he accepted his quilt, and my throat just tightens up and the tears brim even as I am typing this.   

As a nation of people who value their freedom above all else, we should ALWAYS embrace our veterans.  They are heroes any way you look at it.  Whether we believe in war or not, whether we believe in the current cause of the day or not, whether these men and women were called up or signed up, veterans deserve respect and thanks for the bravery, valor, courage, and selflessness they have shown when their country called.  Throughout the history of the United States, were it not for veterans, you and I would not be able to be about our daily business.

If, for just five minutes, we each put ourselves in the shoes of a soldier, experience what a soldier experiences, or experience the quiet desperation of the family members of a soldier, we all might come just a little closer to truly appreciating what these brave men and women have done for us.  I wonder how different our outlook might be if each of us took the time to do that.  Have any of us who are not soldiers truly taken into consideration just what a gift these people, throughout the history of our country, have given us? 

Tonight I experienced a blessing in meeting these two men and thinking of the men in my own family who have served our country.  I thought of those who have died in service to country and how blessed the families of these two men must feel that their folks returned from their wars, whole in body and healing in mind.  To say "Thank You" seems so insignificant in light of what these people do, but these two words can also lead to reflection on their true meaning.  Next time you see a soldier, please take the time to say, "Thank you."     

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Night Ramblings, or Diary of a Mad Seamstress - your pick!

Muse: in Greek mythology, one of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. The Muses inspired and presided over the creative arts. They were Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania, responsible for epic poetry, history, love poetry, lyric poetry, tragedy, sacred song, dance, comedy, and astronomy, respectively. (Encarta Dictionary)
Creativity: the quality of being creative; the ability to use the imagination to develop new and original ideas or things, especially in an artistic context. (Encarta Dictionary)

Have you ever had one of those days when you really, really, really wanted to do something creative, but for whatever reason, things kept going wrong?  For me, that's my inner voice trying to tell me that NOW is NOT a good time to be creative!  Even though I know that voice, I usually don't listen to it in the beginning.  There must be more than one foobar before I take the hint.  Tonight is one of those nights!

The dreaded owl blocks went to work with me today.  They came out during my lunch break and I got most of the remaining thread ends hidden on the back of the blocks.  Only one left when it was time to get back to work!  Hooray!  Then it seemed as if quitting time would never arrive.  I couldn't wait to get home and start working on the eyes.  Since I spent so much time last week perfecting the goo-goo look for these owls, I actually thought that it would be a breeze to get all 16 of them embroidered.  Famous last thoughts!!!

The first owl went famously.  The second one started out ok, but when it came time to add the black part of the eyeballs and the eyebrows, something went dreadfully wrong, causing the machine first embroider white bobbin thread on the top, and then the needle began hitting something that sounded suspiciously like metal.  At first I couldn't figure out what had happened, then discovered that my thread was not only broken, but had somehow become locked on the spool, an errant loop holding everything tightly in place.  Ok, we can deal with that.  Change the needle, start over on a scrap, stop when we get to the same place that the error began, put the owl back in the hoop and continue on like nothing ever happened.  Believe it or not, everything actually lined up.  Not such a bad foobar, I thought.

Then it was time to wind a new bobbin.  Bobbin thread spool 1 had slipped its loops and I was just too tired to figure out the thread path.  After many contortions, really weird faces, and hopes of not destroying my manicure, I managed to get the dad-blamed plastic wrap off the thread package!  Ok, let's wind that bobbin.  But no, in holding the tail of the thread, I managed to pop the bobbin up too high.  I readjusted, resumed winding, but it looked like no thread was being added to the bobbin.  Well, I got that part right - it was winding underneath the bobbin, on the metal bobbin post!  Should I be sensing a trend here?

Finally got the bobbin thread on the bobbin, loaded it, hooped the third owl.  And promptly forgot to trace the embroidery area with the needle.  So, one little owl's eyes are a tad bit too high...and slightly off center. I trending yet?

Seems not.  Went ahead and hooped owl number 4.  After all, there are sixteen of the dad-blamed things!  The baby is due in July.  I'm out of time and MUST get these things ready to quilt.  Remembered to have the machine trace the embroidery area.  I swear, it looked ok.  It DID!  So please tell me - how did this little owls's eyes end up right on top of its nose?! 

By now, I am nearly in tears, envisioning two months of cutting owl parts and painstakingly doing applique slipping to the floor under the cutting table, so to speak.  Have I sensed the trend yet?  Well, evidently not, since now I'm attempting to blog!

As Scarlett O'Hara would say, "Tomorrow is another day."  Maybe the Sewing Muse will be sitting on my shoulder, not pooping on my embroidery again!  And maybe, just maybe, this little baby will one day see the humor in all of these crazy, most definitely unsymetrical owls and crazy Nonnie!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The baby quilt starts to take shape!

Miss Jaelynn Grace Owenby will be here SOON!  So I am frantically working on her "The Hoots" baby quilt, trying to get it finished before the baby shower.  Don't know if I will finish it in time or not.  Sixteen owls have been appliqued.  I still have to do clean-up on the blocks, getting rid of all those pesky threads, finish the eyes, set the strips and border, and get it to the long-arm quilter.  Whew!

Last night I spent ages looking for eyes to embroider.  Once I found some that I thought might be suitable, I got the bright idea to download the demo version of Embird, just in CASE I might need to make some adjustments.  Now that was an experience.  I had to figure out how to turn off my virus scanner and change the approval options in Windows. 

You know how it goes when you are trying to do something on the computer with some semblance of a timeline in mind.  I really wanted to get all of this stuf downloaded, check out my eyeball designs, and then do a test piece.  So, that hateful thing that usually happens to my computer when I have a schedule - well, it happened!  In the middle of the demo download and set-up, my computer decided that it needed to restart because of the changes.  That confused my computer and it froze for a while.  Once it finally re-booted, I couldn't connect to the web to begin the download again.  FINALLY, around 9pm, I got all the stuff downloaded and was doing an install.  You guessed it - error message!  Long and short of the story, I finished a test block around 11pm.

Tonight I decided that the eyeballs I had embroidered last night were too small.  Back to the drawing board, resizing and testing.  But, Houston, we have lift-off!  Lookee, Lookee!  Two of my owls now have eyeballs that won't be hazardous to babies!


Something tells me, though, that I won't be taking this quilt to the long-arm quilter this weekend.  Fourteen more owls need eyes, and I've got all the rest of the stuff to finish yet.  But there is progress being made!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day

In memory of Jerry Clifton Wood
June 11, 1934 - September 3, 2010

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Long Time No Blog!

It has been FOREVER since I've done anything with my little blog.  There is absolutely no way that I could possibly catch up, but here is the short version:
  • planned and executed a wedding in three weeks (WHEW!)
  • sewing like a mad woman
  • went to Augusta three times - got dreadfully lost all three times
  • joined a Block of the Month club
  • joined a Quilt of Valor club
  • got into machine embroidery!
  • last, but certainly not least, will be a grandmother in a few weeks!
I've had tons of fun planning sewing projects for my new granddaughter.  If/when it gets finished, she will have a "The Hoots" quilt, compliments of an Amy Bradley Designs pattern, several fancy little embroidered burp cloths, a couple of embroidered bibs, and an embroidered quilt.  Since burp cloths don't take terribly long, I've got some of those finished.  Other things are works in progress - LOL!

Small wall hangings are also big fun because they finish up fairly quickly, and I've done a couple of those. 

There are a couple more (LOL) but I've got to get picture of them before I can post.  After I get all of my current projects done, I really, really, really want to make one of those "Butterfiesy" wall hangings by Cedar Canyon that uses stencils and paints.  It is just too gorgeous for words, as you can see here!  (This is NOT mine - it is a picture of the pattern package)

I was doing some web surfing and bounced onto this and I swear, my jaw hit the floor.  Just totally LOVE it!  Maybe I can start it next month, if I get everything else done.  Or maybe I'll stat it even though I've got several projects going already.  Somebody did a survey - how many projects is too much.  In my humble opinion, a body's got to have at least 10 going.  That way you don't get bored!  Seriously, though, I am having to force myself not to order the supplies for this thing, because I know that if I do, as soon as it hits that mailbox of mine, there will be no sewing for baby getting done!  The baby quilts are a MUST!

And before I totally forget - for my friend Peg Baker, who kindly follows my silly ramblings, here are some pictures of one of the lap desks I made for Christmas.  I found her tutorials on how to cut bias bindings on You-Tube and they were VERY helpful!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What is Home?

It's been a while since I have thought about posting here, as you can tell by the date of my last post!  As I was looking through my digital pictures to upload here, I realized that I haven't even taken the time to load them onto the computer, much less put them on my blog.

So...for anyone out there who actually reads this silly thing, my ramblings tonight have more to do with location than sewing.

Home - how does one describe this emotionally packed little four-letter word?  Home is that place that we long for when we aren't there, and yet can't wait to escape.  As small children, home is that special place where our parents are.  As teenagers, home is that place w can't get away from fast enough!  After we enter the work place, home is the place we spend eight hours a day longing for and leave on the weekends!  We spend our lives wanting to be home and yet trying to leave.

My home has become a haven for me lately.  No matter how messy or neat, home is the only place that I don't feel beset on all sides by events and emotions totally out of my control to contain.  Home is that place that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will be greeted overenthusiastically by three fur babies.

It's hard to really express all that "home" means.  There is the feeling of safety when I'm at home.  I don't have to answer the phone if I don't want to - let's face it - I don't even have to get out of my PJ's if I don't want to!  I can disappear into my sewing room for hours on end, spending the day sewing or reading or just staring into space.  It's safe and comfortable and special because I don't have to invite the world in unless I choose to.

In all of the emotional ups and downs of the past year, home has become even more dear to me.  In my mind, home has become this almost sacred place where I can retreat and be still.  After all the trauma and drama, I can be still, relax a little bit, pet my dogs, eat contraband cookies, and feel a little bit of peace around the edges of the tense, uptight person that I seem to have become lately.  I've learned that if I occupy myself by sewing, my mind can't keep constantly banging around over things that I can't change or fix.  My sewing room is almost like the mermaid's song - it calls to me during the work day, during the challenge, during the hurtful, and during the laughter.  There is a piece of fabric needing to be manipulated, a pattern that just has to be cut out, an idea that needs to be brought forth.  It is creativity with some semblance of purpose - creation for the love of creating.

What is a home?  Love, laughter, safety, family, creativity, laziness, stillness, calm.  Strife, anger, sadness, sorrow.  Home is many things, but it is always the place that we long for!