A Thousand Days

Today is my son David’s birthday. He would have been twenty-nine years old. It is also one thousand days since he died. How do I know that? Well, sometimes I do strange little math games while I’m walking/jogging in the mornings. For a while, I tallied each day as it passed, but sometime after one hundred I got lost. More recently, after several days of trying different ways to calculate it, and each time coming near a thousand, I found an online calculator and plugged in the dates. Yep, one thousand days…

Nine hundred and ninety-nine days ago, or nine hundred and ninety days ago, or nine hundred days ago, I don’t think I could have imagined surviving to one thousand. It sounds like such a long time. So many days, so many nights. So many tears. Such a piercing pain. But I have survived. Am I “over it?” Never! But the fierce pain isn’t there all the time any more. It still comes back. I can be back in that ICU room in an instant. But sometimes I can be happy, and mean it.

My Mark has been a rock. I’ve cried so many tears on his shoulders. My Annie has been my co-traveler in grief.

So, today is his birthday. I want to try to remember good times…

When David was a little tiny guy, he wanted to be a chef! Like almost all toddlers, he liked playing with pots and pans.

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He also wanted to cook!

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When he was four years old, I think, he was a chef for Halloween. Easiest costume ever! I made a huge chef hat from a white posterboard for the band, and a big circle of shiny white wrapping paper gathered and taped to the band to make a big pouf on top. I got white sweats, and safety-pinned wooden spoons, whisks, plastic spatulas, etc. all over him! Fun!

And, as for almost all kids, big cardboard boxes were an endless source of entertainment. For a while, every box had to be made into a stove! He would draw burners and knobs and dials on top, and an oven door on the front. In the oven, on every box, was a birthday cake! And on every cake was a flaming candle, with smoke rising from it! So cute! I looked for a photo of one of his stove-boxes. I couldn’t find one; I don’t know if there are any.

I had taken one of his stove drawings and transfered it to a sweatshirt, then traced it with that plastic-y shirt paint that was so prevalent then. I even had his photo taken in that sweatshirt, (although he didn’t think much of the toy cooking gear; he wanted the real stuff!)

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And then, I remembered! I still have that shirt! Thank you, Mom, for saving it for me!

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Two birthday cakes in this oven, and probably macaroni and cheese on the stove! 🙂

Drawing stoves eventually went by the wayside, as did playing chef. But David still liked to cook. He stayed with us for several months the summer before he died, and he helped me make dinner almost every day. He grilled, he chopped veggies for salads. We got some Hatch green chiles, and made green chile salsa. One day we made kebabs, and he was so proud of them that I took a photo.

David's kabobs

The last birthday photo I have of him is from five years ago, on his twenty-fourth birthday.

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Happy Birthday, David! I’ll love you forever!

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Mark’s T-Shirt Quilt

Mark’s birthday is today! Happy birthday! This is what I made for him for his birthday three years ago. He knew what I was doing, because I had to get the shirts from him, but he didn’t get to see how I put them together until his big day.

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If you know Mark, you know he has some rather eclectic interests, which are reflected in some of the shirts he chose for me to use! 🙂

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Included are shirts from his high school, his sons’ schools, items from his professional work, and, of course, Texas!

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In case you can’t tell, he went to Baylor, which is well represented in the quilt. 😉

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I cut the shirts apart, then backed the parts I wanted to use with a lightweight fusible interfacing. Because I didn’t want huge empty, solid areas around the smaller designs, I cut the blocks into a variety of sizes. The right side column is made of smaller motifs, some special fabrics, and a machine-embroidered Texas. It was all put together with yellow and green (Baylor colors!) sashing.

The back is fun, too.

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Instead of using a single fabric for the backing, I pulled yellow and green fabrics from my stash, cut them into big blocks, and patchworked them together. This is something you could do for any quilt, but it’s especially nice for a lap quilt or snuggle quilt, in which the back will frequently be seen. The blue fabric is Texas State Flower fabric, left over from the wall hanging I made him years before.

My Texas Star

This Baylor print fabric is one of the strangest fabrics I’ve ever used!

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It was from – get this! – a pair of boxers he’d gotten back in his college days! I doubt that he ever wore them. The fabric was a very poor quality, poly/cotton-ish, and loosely woven. But the really weird part was that the green motifs were printed with this rubbery stuff! It was hard to quilt the areas where this fabric was on the back, because the rubbery stuff didn’t slide on the machine bed. Fortunately, this was not a contest quilt!

Quilting was simple and quick. I outline stitched the shirt motifs, did a free-motion wavy line instead of stitch-in-the-ditch of all the seams, and did a loose meander pretty much everywhere else. This quilt was meant to be used, and I wanted it to be soft, not heavily quilted.

About a year ago, Mark had to retire one of his favorite shirts that he couldn’t bear to give up when I made the quilt. It was literally falling apart. So I cut it up, and appliqued it to the back. I re-quilted the quilting lines from the front, using monofilament in the needle so there wouldn’t be double threads, to secure the fabric to the back. I guess I can add lots more old shirts to the back as the years go by!

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I think he likes it 🙂

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A Red Dress

I’ve always loved pretty dresses, but I don’t get dressed up very often. Jeans and t-shirts are pretty much the order of the day. Several weeks ago, I received a phone call that my quilt “Blue Plate Special” has won one of the eight top prizes at the Houston International Quilt Festival. For those of you not involved in the quilt world, this is a BIG deal! Not only are the cash prizes very nice, but part of the award is a paid trip to Festival. I won’t know exactly what award I’ve won until the awards ceremony, which is also a big deal. The awards ceremonies at Houston and at the Paducah quilt show are the closest most of us will ever get to the Academy Awards! It’s so much fun! A big auditorium with a stage, suspense, the big reveal of the winning quilts, squeals of delight, and lots of applause.

It’s the perfect excuse for a new dress! I know, I’ll probably only wear a new dress a few times, but still, a new dress is called for. So, I started going through my patterns and my fabrics, thinking of what might work, and what would look good.

At first, I thought I’d go with McCall’s 6432, view B, with a blue-purple matte jersey with black contrast.

M6432[1]

In fact, I partially made this up, and decided it did nothing for my body, so I’ll probably cut it off to wear as a long top with black slacks. It’ll look good that way.

Then I got out my StyleArc Madeleine Ponte Top pattern, which I got about six months ago. I guessed that it could easily be lengthened to dress length.

MADELEINE-TOP[1]

I also pulled out some gorgeous red rayon/lycra ponte knit from Gorgeous Fabrics that I got on sale from them sometime in the past year. That same fabric is no longer available, but these are similar fabrics in different colors.

DKN10022-547x547[1] RDK10985-547x547[1]

Good quality ponte knits are easy to work with and comfortable to wear. I don’t usually wear bright colors, but this red was calling my name!

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My measurements were between a 12 and a 14, so I went with the larger size. I really don’t like tight-fitting clothes! Besides, I normally do a full bust adjustment, and that was going to be quite a job with this bodice, so I figured the larger size would pretty much take care of that, and it turned out that I was right about that. I also thought about using another pattern and trying to adapt the top for sleeves, but that was also going to be quite a drafting job, and I didn’t want to spend that much time on this.

I made a muslin of the top with a similar weight knit that has been languishing on my shelves for several years. The fit was pretty good to start out. Here’s what I did in terms of fitting:

  • I took in the upper back at the angled upper back seams by about 1/4″, in effect making a dart to account for rounded upper back and to snug in the back neckline.
  • I curved the center back seam in 1″ at the waist, tapering from just below my shoulder blades to just above my hips, to give some curve to the back.
  • I scooped the front neckline about 3/4″, tapering to 1/2″ at the shoulders, and curving to nothing at the back. I just don’t like tight jewel necks on myself, and this also allowed me to eliminate the back zipper.
  • I lengthened the front and back lower pattern pieces 18″, maintaining the curve of the lower edge, and creating a slight A-line skirt.
  • I used 1/8″ silk ribbon in the seamline to stay the neckline seam. Even with interfaced facings, the neck will still stretch with a knit like this. My right shoulder is a bit lower than my left, so I eased the right neckline in about 1/4″ to prevent it from gaping. You wouldn’t think that this small amount would make that much difference, but it really does.
  • I lowered the left front inset (the angled inset below the belt). The directions (skimpy with StyleArc, but I’ve never had a problem constructing their patterns) call for the upper edge of the inset to be stitched in the diagonal bodice seam. But it seemed to me that too little of it was visible. So I removed it from the seam, and just zigzagged the upper edge to the front of the dress, lowering the inset about 3/4″. I’m much happier with the look, and the belt covers the edge of the inset.
  • I shortened the belt 1.5″ so that it would pull in the front just a bit.
  • I eliminated bulk in seam allowances wherever possible. The ponte knit is a bit bulky, and  there are many layers of fabric at the center front bodice seam.

Here are photos…

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A close up of the interesting bodice

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and the equally interesting lines in back…

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I have to say that I was rather hesitant about a sleeveless dress. I’m 60 years old, and my upper arms (even with working out with weights) are not what they used to be. I am a firm proponent of the notion that women – and men – should dress well, but not dress like those decades younger. I’ve always thought that people who try to wear clothes way younger than they are just look silly! My concerns were pretty much allayed when my husband saw me in the dress and said something along the lines of “Hubba, hubba!” 🙂 I think I like the dress a lot!

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Now, this dress cost me almost nothing. The fabric and pattern were both in my stash, and originally cost maybe $30 total. But I just ordered shoes that cost more than I have ever paid for shoes in my life! Strappy red suede shoes with a zipper in back! And 2.5″ heels, which I’ll have to practice walking in! I’m over 5’9″, and have rarely worn heels.

I’m ready for Houston! Maybe I’ll even wear makeup…

An idea!

I love figuring things out. I like the problem-solving aspects of sewing. I like making things work, using materials and techniques in new ways to achieve a desired result. I like it when ideas swirl in my brain. My brain has been pretty quiet the past few years, with not too much swirling going on. But I had an idea for a quilt I’m working on, and I tried it, and it worked! It feels good 🙂

Machine embroidery finds its way into much of my work, both garments and quilt, and sometimes in new and unusual ways. I particularly like using machine-embroidered free-standing lace on my quilts. These are designs that have been specifically digitized to be stitched on a water-soluble substrate, then, when the substrate is dissolved, the threadwork remains. Not every design can be used like this. Well, any design can be stitched on water-soluble stabilizer, but when the stabilizer is dissolved, all that will remain is a wad of thread! FSL designs have a great deal of supportive stitching, and retain their shape when the stabilizer is removed. I’m quite partial to Zundt FSL designs, and all of the samples below are from Zundt.

With free-standing lace, the back of the design will be visible as well as the front. When I attach the lace as an edging or insert on my quilts, the back of the lace can be seen on the back of the quilt. And the back is half the quilt! I want the back to be pretty.

This is lace from the first quilt on which I used FSL (free-standing lace). Here’s the front…

Lace 1 front

Pretty, right? But here’s the back…

lace 1 back

Yuck, I used white bobbin thread, and it definitely detracts from the look. (My quilting tension, with dark blue thread in the needle and white thread in the bobbin, on a white backing, leaves a lot to be desired, as well! But this was one of my first show quilts.)

Using the same or matching color thread in the needle and bobbin solves the problem. Front…

Lace 3 front

…and back.

Lace 3 back

With silver and light gray, I was able to use only light gray thread in the bobbin with good effect. Front…

Lace 4 front

…and back.

Lace 4 back

I almost always use Superior Threads Bottom Line thread in the bobbin for machine embroidery. It’s the perfect weight, it creates no lint, and it comes in lots of colors, so I can match the bobbin thread pretty closely to the top thread.

Here’s another sample, front…

Lace 2 front

…and back. I changed bobbin thread, using light gray for the silver metallic sections, and purple for the rest.

Lace 2 back

Okay, now let’s say I’m using a lace design with lots of colors, and I can’t use the same bobbin thread for the whole design without having the back look ugly. And let’s say that I’m making edging for a big quilt, and need to stitch this design 80 or 90 times! That’s a lot of bobbin changes. But we do what we need to do! And that’s what I did for the lace on Gloria’s Garden.

Lace 8 front

You can see on the back that I changed a lot of bobbins!

Lace 8 back

I’m working on a new quilt. A big quilt. And I want to edge it in lace. And the lace has a lot of color changes. Here’s the front of a section. Lace 6 front

Here’s the back of that section, which I stitched with green bobbin thread.

Lace 6 back

Yuck, right?! Not pretty at all! So….(here’s where the idea comes in!)…I thought, why can’t I use monofilament in the bobbin? I’ve used monofilament in the bobbin for quilting, although not often, and it works just fine. So I wound a bobbin, stitched out some designs, and…

Lace 5 front

Wow! Look at that back!

Lace 5 back

It’ll be great for my quilt! The monofilament bobbin thread even makes the front look better, I think. I used Superior MonoPoly Reduced Sheen Clear. It stitched beautifully on my 15-needle commercial machine. I haven’t tried it on a home combo machine, but I have no reason to think that it wouldn’t work well. I like to dissolve away all the stabilizer in my lace so it has a nice soft hand. The final product with MonoPpoly is just a bit stiffer than if it were stitched with Bottom Line, but not much. An added benefit is that you can wind a LOT of monofilament on a bobbin! I think I’ll do it this way a lot!

Now I know that I’m probably the only person in the world who makes FSL to edge large quilts! But many of you make bookmarks and Christmas ornaments and small FSL items. This technique would be great for that! Try it and let me know if you like it!