Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The quilt of generations

I can finally post about this quilt which took me all fall to make. About 3-4 years ago, I was given a stack of antique quilt blocks by my mother in law from her side of the family. We think they were assembled by her mother and possibly her grandmother too. There's really no telling how old these squares are. They were hand pieced and made from old flour sacks and work clothes. (They're fabulous).

The squares were amazing. But they'd also sat neglected for decades. This year I decided to assemble them into something my inlaws could appreciate. Their Christmas gift was a California King sized quilt made from 16 of the 30+ squares I have. Though the squares themselves weren't really in colors that suited my husband's parents' taste, I decided to make do and work with fabrics that drew the quilt into their color palette.
I traded fabric with friends and was able to shove all this fabric through my tiny machine's throat to make the top and back. Then to make sure these delicate squares would be forever preserved, I had my friend Lisa Alexakis quilt it on a longarm machine. She did a beautiful job and I was able to bind it and give it as a gift this Christmas.
I'm very excited about these squares being used finally. I'm also thrilled to be the one woman who finally finished this project after decades of women touching it and passing it down. It feels like I'm a part of a wonderful legacy. And now it finally gets to be used.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Nice gifts for nieces

My sister has three great girls. (And a cute baby boy!)
Making original gifts for three different sisters can be tough. But I had a lot of fun with these. For the oldest, a Star Wars fan and reading enthusiast, I got this amazing Spoonflower fabric and had fun making every random bag I could for her from them. Perfect for going to the library and loading up.
The second, "the artsy one" got a patchwork tote and pouch embroidered with her name. (Along with art supplies!)
The littlest one is in preschool and I loved using this Robert Kaufman fabric "dollhouse" line to make dolls and matching bags for her.
Baby brother will also be getting a tote/book bag, some beanbags to throw and an awesome ball...
And other cousins get other gifts... Pics to come.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Quilt #3

Here it is.
I love this quilt. It's backed in the softest flannel sheet (from The Company Store) and its so happy to wake up under it every day. The layout was stumping me until a fellow guildie suggested the tree layout (LOVE!)

I could not be happier with this quilt.
I'm so happy I made it to enjoy this year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Quilt #2

Here's Z's quilt. He loves it. The layout is so simple, and perhaps would have been different if I weren't trying to make EQUAL quilts, but we are all happy with them and there are no complaints.

In all honesty, I've been sewing nonstop all month - trying to get these gifts cranked out. But my priority was these quilts. I wanted to finish them by Dec 9. And I did!

I'll have to wait to do the big reveal of all the other sewing I did for gifts after they're given. I know, lame, and not very inspiring, but secrets are secrets!

Christmas Quilt #1 (what I've been doing)

As long as I can remember, I have been wanting to make a Christmas quilt. I began collecting fabrics for it before I ever knew how to quilt.
Last year with my Bee Happy girls, when it was my turn, I asked them to make Christmas blocks. I send the fabrics to them asking for one block each. They sent back THREE each. Which were amazing and beautiful and utterly overwhelming! What was I going to do with so many blocks? (Ahem: make Christmas bed quilts for all the beds in the family)

I set aside all of the Christmas tree blocks to make a tree themed quilt for my bed, and divided up the rest into two EQUALLY awesome piles for my two very competitive kids (who would notice if one person's quilt was cuter than the others')

Then on the LAMQG retreat, I cranked out the three quilt tops. My goal was to maybe finish the quilts in time for Christmas 2013. But my friends encouraged me that with my new machine (still need to post about it) that it would be a lot easier than I thought to finis these up. So by the end of the weekend, both of the kids' twin size quilts were quilted up and my king size quilt was basted.

The first to be completed was Mimi's quilt. She was thrilled and cuddled under it the first time she was sick this month while watching movies. It's been on her bed ever since.

I just have this amazing happiness when I walk into their rooms and see my little people sleeping under their Christmas quilts. How amazing to be a little kid and wake up every day in December, knowing its Christmas before you are even out of bed? The very thought makes me happy.
(Them too, they're already talking about how sad they will be to put them away)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sew a Square a Day & Architextures

You know I already posted about my Dad's healing quilt and how I had made it out of Robert Kaufman's AMAZING new line, ARCHITEXTURES (by Carolyn Friedlander). I seriously love this fabric. It's probably one of the most usable lines that I have ever gotten my hands on. It's clean, modern and even masculine in a way that's not cheesy or trying too hard.
My dad is undergoing radiation treatments for his cancer. He's not on Instagram (or fb) so I can show you what I'm starting for him. Shhhh. Don't tell...

This past weekend one of the first projects that I completed was the quilt top from my "sew a square a day" project with Ramona. She'd challenged me to use up some scraps that I had by sewing one simple square a day and I decided to make it really attainable by using my tiny 4.5" square ruler.
#sewasquareaday  next batch.

Sew a square a day (with Ramona)So for a few months I made sure to have at least one square per day... then I got off track (of course) and to make up, I spent a night sewing a big sheet of fabric from the scraps and then cutting it up into squares with the little ruler. I have never made a postage stamp-esque quilt, so I decided now was the time to showcase my new squares in a checkerboard with Essex Linen.

You can see some great glimpses here at some of the squares. There's a lot of Architextures mixed in with some truly old and weird fabrics - I just love the pattern that has the ledger and numbers on it.

The top is now done and I've got a new machine to enjoy quilting it with.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rosanna's baby bee quilt

I never did post about the beautiful baby quilt that the Bee Happy girls made for Rosanna when she had a baby.... She'd liked the quilt I made for Iris - who I called Little Princess when she lived with us - this one.... and asked for a similar quilt for her baby.
Quilt Fail meets some hope
So we bees hooked her up with a bright sunburst of a quilt for her baby...
Rosanna's quilt

It was quilted by our very own Blossom... and bound by Katie.... and it was so incredibly pretty!
(these are Blossom's pics below)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Quilt Guild retreat

Just a little glimpse into my weekend retreat with my quilty guild friends this weekend. My family was amazing and made it possible for me to get away for 4 days of sewing with my friends at a beautiful retreat center in Temecula. I didn't take a lot of pics myself, but my friends did, so I'm showing you their pics. (Turns out I was a little bit obsessive-compulsive about using my time to sew as much as I possibly could in that time. I made a lot of projects, but that's another post)
It was a beautiful weekend with lots of laughter and hugs, sewing and snacks, cooing at babies (since there were three cuties there!) and generous friends giving gifts and helping each other out. We made another speed pieced charity quilt top (the orange and gray squares - all made by us in 1/2 hour) and we even had a scavenger hunt. We met another guild across the yard from us who were a group of older ladies (and one man) who had over 500 years of quilting experience in their group and we made friends.
I stayed up ridiculously and guiltlessly late and sewed as much as I wanted to all weekend.
A huge thanks to my in-laws and Jay who made my weekend possible by juggling the kids until I got home, and allowed me to be irresponsible and a little selfish for the weekend.

Oh, and see that cute little munchie I'm playing with? That's Crockett... Ramona's adorable guy and he's my godson!!!! (Why does every single baby seem to have this exact pic with me holding them this way? So funny... I love babies. It was good to get some baby love on a weekend where I was really missing a very special baby).

I also had a "fabric fairy" - who turned out to be my friend, Jennifer, who made me a beautiful sewing machine cover for my new machine. I love it. I felt surrounded by sweet friends this weekend. Sweet friends and fabric and free time to sew... For me, that's a pretty awesome weekend.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Re•building Joy - a year into healing

I haven't written much about Re•building Joy lately. Partly because when you're working through grief you also have to walk through some really lonely and angry parts which are just not very beautiful or inspiring to write about but it's the honest truth about where I've been.

(Warning: this post is very personal and if you just like my blog for art and quilts, this may not interest you, feel free to skip ahead to another post. I'm not offended. However, as this blog has always been about what inspires me and my "re•building joy" journey is a large part of what propels me these days... I decided to post these rather personal musings after some careful thought - it's taken over a week to write this) I've also had more than two friends ask me lately if they'd offended me or if I had noticed that they'd sent me multiple messages I hadn't responded to. There are probably more people wondering the same thing. Ive dropped the ball on so much lately. had to let go of so many things i was good at before. So I'm writing this... Putting this out there as a year post-mortem entry. I want you all to know that I'm not personally offended at anyone. If I haven't responded this year to you, read on and hear a little about my journey and what I have been doing. This year has been the hardest of my life. The previous year was the previous hardest year... But I was running on adrenaline and a sense that I was doing the right thing... And those can give you a lot of strength. I used to have tremendous stamina, and a passion for doing good to the world. This year? This year has been filled with aftermath. And grief... Both of which highlight weakness and make you battle all your personal demons rather than ignoring them. Post-traumatic stress, perhaps? Our path in pain has confused people around us, too. It's easy when you feel sliced open to get hurt further by well intentioned people who say the wrong things.
All that said:
This weekend marks a year that we said goodbye to G.
I have a lot of questions that I ask God these days. In the past, I've felt times where I was super close to God, like I could feel His presence in the same room as me. And then there were times where He was further than the moon. But never before have I had to ask the angry questions I've had for him this year. The biggest one being, "if there's a shortage of people willing to take in foster kids and the system is desperate for good families, why would you allow us to get so abused and terrorized to the point where there was no hope of us being able to do it again?" We feel like Olympic marathoners who've suddenly lost a leg.

I wish so much that I could show you photos of him when he was in our home so you could see how much a part of life he was and how this really was like losing our own child. I cry almost every time i have to go back through iPhoto to find some old pic. Almost all of our pics from our time together had him in them. We had him from 3weeks-16months old, always with the intention of adoption. If you've been to my house, though, you've seen the pictures, you've probably heard my kids talk about him or maybe you've seen that they often write about him at school in their projects. We still mention him daily and miss him desperately. We also dealt with losing our sense of security. Having an unstable person post your address, photos of your family and death threats on the internet is not something you recover from quickly. We still have nightmares. We still look over our shoulders. G is safe and we have been too, and that helps, but we were pretty rattled. (And that was only the straw that broke the camel's back - there's so much I'm not allowed to post)

I've spent this past year working through all of these different issues. We've had a lot of ups and a lot of downs. We moved, switched schools, dealt with a lot of fallout with two kids who lost a baby brother, and we've simply kept walking. Jay has spent most of the year working three full time jobs... Which doesn't leave many easy family evenings at home.
And in the process I also lost my dear friend Yolanda.

It's been almost impossible for me to sit down and write about "re•building joy" when so much of the rebuilding has been having to clear out what was destroyed. I look at images of Hurricane Sandy and I relate. I see devastation and hopes dashed. And I realize that before they can rebuild, they have to clear out a lot of debris.

I've spent my year filling up emotional dumpsters. Invisibly burning things that weren't critical. Saving the shreds of things that were. Hanging onto the hope that there will always be this loss, but that life carries on and someday it won't hurt as bad as it does now. It already doesn't hurt like it did a year ago, where I barely could scrape myself together to leave the house and I felt like I couldn't breathe, but I still struggle in groups. My hands don't shake constantly anymore, but I still have a hard time answering the question "how many kids do you have?" without launching into a long sad story. (Answer: 2, I have two)

I was asked today what I am grateful for. And I mean this in all sincerity, without guile or self-pity: I am grateful for my family. For kids who have learned that you can still have fun even when your heart hurts. They have expressed their angers and fears in many ways this year and they are now evening out and beginning to flourish in generosity and loveliness. Its taken almost all i have to pour myself into their healing as I myself am healing. I'm grateful for a husband who I am closer to now than I ever was before. He is a rock. We survived this in tact and just celebrated 12 years married. Most of all, I am grateful that after the hardest, worst 2 years of my life... That I haven't shut the door on God. I have my foot in the door and it's hard not to want to slam it, but its not closed. Yes, my journal has more four letter words in it than I would guess most "prayer journals" include. (I figure if He can dish it out, he can deal with my questions.) And whether God is closer than my skin or further than the moon right now, I don't know. Things are different than they used to be. My relationship with God is more complex. If I didn't believe God was actually a living entity- I'd have given up and walked away by now. Who wants to merely pretend to believe in something that hurts so bad? But if I know God is real, a real live spirit... Then whether or not I like Him right now doesn't change whether or not He made me. And that is where my wrestling lies now.. That is where I sit in my journey.

I'm weaker than I used to be. My nerves are more easily shaken. I host parties now and it takes me days to recover. I don't allow myself to cry in front of people often, but I still cry a lot at home or in my car . But I'm also more aware of the strength I have. I know how much I have to give and I give what I can. I realize my capacity for relationships isn't what it was before. I am not as good at multi-tasking. I'm even more poorly organized than I used to be. I know my kids better and I love them more. And Jay... Well, suffice it to say that there are a lot of divorced foster parents out there. And I've heard something like 75% of couples who lose a child also lose their marriage... We came through this stronger and closer and more in tune than ever before. I couldn't ask for more with him.

It hasn't been a year flooded with joy. Maybe that will be 2013. But it feels like kind of a big deal just to look back and know we made it to this point without losing any more.
And before the re•building starts after a hurricane... There's a lot of cleanup and hauling out of painful fragments. I'm starting to see glimpses of the foundation... And so far, it looks like it survived in tact.

A number of times this year, I've stumbled on old pics of myself. I look happier, lighter than I do now. Like any American president a few years into office - I've aged visibly. A friend recently told me, " you ARE different. You're not as light-hearted as you were. But that wouldn't be authentic to your journey if you were. You have good reason."

I hope someday I can feel like a kite flying high again, soaring. Maybe I won't. Or maybe I'll soar again, but the shadows in my heart will remind me to be more grateful for the soaring. I hope so for the latter, that would be nice.

For now... I'll continue to take it one day at a time. This weekend, I'm going away to sew for 4 days with my quilt buddies. These ladies helped me to laugh this year when I didn't even think it was possible. We walked through Yolanda's illness together and we will also leave our retreat to attend a service for Yolanda together as well.

Thanksgiving is coming up too. My favorite holiday... We are putting our little "I'm thankful for" cards daily in our November countdown calendar and there is no shortage of things to write.

I'm thankful for you, too. I honestly don't know the percentage of you who read my blog are flesh and blood friends vs. online friends... But you are both. And I know my blog isn't like other blogs... It's kind of all over the place (like me, really)... But it is filled with warmth and happiness and for that I'm grateful.

I try so hard to make this blog a place for beauty and inspiration. Tonight, it's more raw. Maybe you can read this and have a little more insight into the intense artwork I've been churning out lately. (Why does our best work often come in the most pain?) I literally have STACKS of those finished collages in my living room. Piles of self-expression where I am excavating all these emotions and trying to create beauty from madness, pain and confusion. Pretty soon, Libby Dibby skirts will say their final goodbye and my website will change to a whole new version... (You can see it now at Life marches on. Last year, our family Christmas card was the parody of Abbey Road. The reference to forward motion was intentional. We did that shoot a week after we went from a family of 5 down to 4. I wanted to say to the world that we were committed to walking on together. We still are.

Thank you for supporting us on our journey. Thank you for supporting me.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bee Happy Blocks - the last few months

While the bee was busy all year working on Yolanda's quilts, we really put our monthly block assignments to the back burner. But then in September, the overwhelming feeling for me of being behind just got to the point where I HAD to catch up. I set aside a few nights to sit down and crank out some blocks for the girls who I care so much for.
 Forgive me if I managed to post about these before and didn't actually realize it... but here are a bunch of bee blocks from 2012.

Nicole asked us to make blocks inspired by Gees Bend. I love the quilts of Gees Bend and loved this project. I took special inspiration from a well known quilt made by Annie Mae Young.

Alison was inspired by her collection of vintage sheets and also the idea of spelling pieced words with fabric. She asked each of us to do our name and also a word that described our bee and our amazing friendship. I picked the word "FRIENDS"

Kelly asked for an improv block and gave us a great palette of colors to play with. I chose one of her inspiration pic on Flickr as my starting point, making sure to include curved piecing, since that's my fave.

Melissa wanted help finishing up a rainbow mod mosaic...

Natalie wanted a bookshelf.
Bee Happy block - Natalie's 
Then it was time for a new round and Natalie wanted for year 3 to begin with a wonky star.
Bee happy 2012 - Natalie's star
Earlier in the year, Rosanna had asked for hearts for a Valentine quilt.
A heart for Rosanna
Blossom had us do a string square.
Lori asked for a large square in square. She was the one that seemed to get us trending in the direction of making one big 18" square and not two 12" squares as often as we used to.

Janice also had us work on two separate projects within the same color family for two family members. One was a set in circle and one was to have triangles.
Janice's blocks - bee happy
Most recently, Ramona asked for us to work on a series of little quilt squares that she will piece together to create a maze. (can't wait to see this one all done...)

I apologize for the poor quality of pics - I often take these images around midnight when I am finished with them and then I pack them up with little goodies and treats for the friends and I mail them off the next day.  During year 2, I sent nearly every square (I think I did every square!) with a handmade project bag or zipper pouch. I forgot to take pics of some of them, but you can see some here...

I even probably still missed some blocks, but had to do some quick homework even to make this post!
I think I am mostly caught up now though, showing you these.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Last minute Halloween costume - channelling Frida Kahlo

We are getting ready to host about 40 families on our front lawn for pizza before trick-or-treating. I just realized that I didn't have a costume, so I copied an idea I'd seen earlier in the day... Drew in a unibrow and part of a mustache... Put all of my flower clips on top of braids, got big jewelry and a long skirt and I was Frida.
It was either that or "tired" - wearing my pajamas. This was more fun.  I'll post pics of the kids later, but didn't want to forget what Z said... I texted it to Jay:

Best comment yet is that Zane says, "mom, when you are dressed like that, if you want to speak hard to me, you already have your eyebrows in the right place"

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Improv quilt

It doesn't yet have a binding on it, but the quilt I started over a year ago in the workshop I took with Denyse Schmidt is finally finished being quilted by hand. I'm usually so much faster in projects, but this one doesn't have a recipient or goal as for now... And I'm slower when I don't know who I am quilting for.
I really love it though and can't wait to put the binding on it.



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