16 Feb

Deployment Blog Day

A few days ago, TS&WGH, AKA Mr. Incredible, AKA my husband posted on his blog about pictures of flag-draped coffins. His timing happened to coincide with the kids and I watching a TV show featuring a soldier that brought me to tears, and so got me thinking.

It wasn’t a Lifetime tear-jerker movie, nor a raw news report. It was “Underdog to Wonderdog” a bit of fluff on Animal Planet where a team makes over a sad case from an animal shelter and gives it a happy new home. What made me cry was that on this particular episode the dad of the recipient family was deployed to Afghanistan and the dog was supposed to help one of the kids through the separation. At the end of the show, the girl got her dog, AND, as my kids predicted, dad returned home at the same time. Deployed parents miss so many small but important moments in their family’s lives and this family was no different than any other out there. The tears flowed on TV and at my house.

Soldiers are generic in a way. They are (or at least were, before the catch phrase became “An Army of One”) trained to step in for one another. They shed their individualism at Basic Training and are rebuilt as one unit. It makes them better at what they do. What it also does is make each one a part of a greater whole.

So, when one soldier returns home in time to be a part of welcoming a new family member, then there’s hope that they all will return to witness such moments. When one is brought home solemnly in a flag-draped casket, that could be any soldier — even mine.

In 2003 my husband’s battalion lost a soldier in an IED attack. He was in another Company, not my husband’s (simplified, Divisions are made of battalions, Battalions are made of companies, Companies are made of platoons and Platoons are made of soldiers). I personally had never met this man. But, when we went to his memorial service at the chapel on post I choked up as soon as I saw his boots with the carefully placed weapon and helmet. When individuals went up to pay their respects to the empty boots the faucet started flowing. Those could have been my husband’s boots, or my neighbor’s, a friend’s, even those of my uncles who served in Vietnam, or of my grandfather who fought in WWII.

Speaking of my grandfather, he never had much to say about his service when I was growing up. Neither did the uncle who we saw often. It wasn’t until Mr. Incredible joined the Army that Granddad became a fount of Army stories. He loved to hold court with my man. By proxy he and I became closer too. When he died a small honor guard played Taps and folded the flag on his coffin, then gave it to my dad. Since that day, I choke up at the sight of most triangularly folded flags (I say most because we also have a folded flag that was flown over the US capitol on the day Mr. Incredible was commissioned as an officer; so that one has happy memories). These flags hold proud stories.

They may just be pictures, or clothes, a song, or a simple gesture, but in the context of the military, they can represent so much more.

13 Feb

Garment Sewing

Today is “Sewing Blog” day.

I’ve been on a roll with garment sewing. I’d been setting aside larger bits of fabric and grabbing patterns I like for a while now and it was getting out of control! Time to make stuff and get a few piles off the floor.

First up: Pajama Pants. I used this pattern, because I liked the packaging (I’m a sucker). I had won an obscene amount of fabric from Tia by commenting on her blog a while ago. One of the fabrics was just too bright for me, too bold for my artwork, and too black for Katja. But just right for pajama pants! It wasn’t quite enough fabric for the full length, but luckily I did have just enough of something coordinating in my stash, and I’m short.

Next up was a jersey dress. I really needed something easy to throw on and relatively cool for our new climate. I see ladies in dresses like this all the time, but can’t seem to find ones that are the right combination of color, fabric content and sleeve length/neckline when I go shopping (admittedly, I’m a lousy shopper). I grabbed a pattern I liked at Walmart of all places, and found a nice 100% cotton jersey online. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, so I’ll keep my eye open for more jersey and make another one eventually.

The most recent make is a blouse from an Asian-inspired border print. I loved the idea of the flowers growing up from the hemline.

This was a pretty easy pattern, so I didn’t think it through as I should have and it’s taking me more time and redoing than I expected. It still needs buttons and button holes, but I’m losing steam. I’m not sure if this will get done.

As a reward for sticking with my schizophrenic posts, here’s a detail from a new-ish quilt. I’m really pleased¬† with the tons of free-form hand quilting. Seems more and more shows these days want “virgin” quilts that haven’t been shown publicly (and blogs count) so I don’t know when I’ll show all of it.

11 Feb

Seven Blogs in One!

I’ve looked back on my recent entries and see that there is very little art quilting/creative journey posting going on here. Of course, life in general is part of the creative journey, so think of this as quilting/artful life/cute crafting/travelogue/food/cute grandkids/botany blogs all rolled into one.

Today is “Bug Blog Day.”

The chrysalis still hasn’t “hatched,” and I’m doubting it ever will. We did however find three more small caterpillars and two eggs on the tree.

Over the course of a few days the eggs hatched and we saw one teensy teensy caterpillar. Unfortunately, of those five, only one remains. I guess birds or other bugs have to eat too. I decided I needed to intervene and make the whole tree into a caterpillar box with some tulle yardage I had. It looks like this now (note blooms sticking out to encourage more butterflies):

My fingers are crossed that this last caterpillar makes it to butterfly stage. I did see three different types of butterfly pass through our yard this morning, so prospects are good.

10 Feb

Brushfire Blocks

I’m having a serious attack of so much to do and so little time. In the flurry of making pillows and skirts, some garments for me,¬† and even working on an art quilt, my mind is going a million miles an hour. The doing begets more ideas and my sketchbook is overflowing! Then there’s the stuff not on the list that pops up, like the Mushroom Swap — count me in!

Yesterday was an appeal for quilts in response to the devastating brush fires in Australia. I usually like to donate closer to home since wherever that is, there always seems to be one group or another on the edge. But, seeing as I’ve recently donated locally to the Red Cross and the Hawai’i Food Bank, plus this particular project is the brainchild of another US military spouse (who I met through a playgroup military mom friend from back in Germany — the military is a small world) and we all look out for each other (for the most part), AND it was just two blocks, not a whole quilt — well, count me in again!

I’d never done these Liberated Stars before (although I’d seen them and understood the concept). They are fun to make! Great for scrap bag management!

These are off to Australia soon, and I am back to trying to bring some of my ideas to fruition.

08 Feb

Ka Iwi Coast

This is the Blowhole viewed from above — a tourist attraction southwest of Honolulu. It’s actually more dramatic from Sandy Beach down below, but we were at the top parking lot, meeting our Hawai’i Nature Center group for a coastal walk. We saw whales spouting and rounding off the coast as we waited for people to assemble.

The official purpose of the walk was to learn about native Hawaiian coastal plants — this being the best place on the island (if not the state) to see such a variety. We were there as an excuse to get outside and see more of Oahu. The kids learned the difference between indigenous, endemic and introduced plants.

We saw plants like the ‘Ilima which is Oahu’s flower (the hibiscus is the state flower, but each island has it’s own flower or plant too). It takes hundreds of these little flowers to make a lei. We also saw Hawaiian Nama which is endemic to the islands and becoming quite rare.

We took a meandering route to Pele’s Chair for lunch. Legend says this is one of the places from which the fire/volcano goddess Pele left Oahu and went to work on the other islands. Our guide has some other juicy tidbits, but as I was with the kids, I was out of earshot. I think it had to do with Pele’s older sister chasing her from island to island flooding her fires in retribution after Pele had seduced her boyfriend.

Another legend is attached to this plant, the Beach Naupaka. The princess Naupaka fell in love with the commoner Kaui. Since custom forbade them to be together, she tore the flower in her hair apart and gave half to him. She stayed in the mountains where the Naupaka Kuahiwi (Mountain Naupaka) now grow sympathetically in an upward facing fan and he was banished to the coastal areas where the Naupaka Kahakai have since grown in a downward facing fan. It’s also a hardy shrub that is essential to maintaining the coastal ecosystem.

The other hikers in our group were wonderful and friendly. One volunteer is a preschool teacher and she took to my kids. At Pele’s Chair, she found a rounded rock and explained to my son how the Hawaiians used to play a game trying to roll it on the edge between two sticks. We didn’t have straight sticks, but did try to throw the stone so it would roll on it’s side. There was some success.

All in all a great day; good weather, good people, good sights (even a big green turtle (Hono) in one of the inlets), and just enough of a walk to wear the kids out, but not enough to elicit too many complaints.

06 Feb

Dove in the Window

The new theme at 12×12 is Window. This is huge — I could go so many places with it that I am actually overwhelmed. Out of curiosity, I looked to traditional quilt blocks like Cathedral Windows and Attic Window, and also found one called “Dove in the Window” which and was first published by the Lady’s Art Company in 1898.

dove-in-window-block

I think there’s a lot to be said for traditional quilt blocks and their history. I love their names. Some are whimsical, some are pictorial, some are political — like Burgoyne Surrounded or Whig’s Retreat. I like that their makers could include subtle messages through the blocks they chose to use: the most widely known probably being the blocks claimed to be used by slaves to assist in their escape to freedom like Wagon Wheel, Flying Geese and Monkey Wrench.

I felt compelled to try out this block today. I used fabric from my husband’s old BDUs (battle dress uniform). I doubt I’ll use it as my 12×12 submission, but it could well inform something else I want to work on. Actually, I have about 5,000 things I want to work on. Is it wrong for me to hope the kids don’t come home from school today?

05 Feb

Mushroom Swap

I joined a mushroom swap. It’s mushrooms, how could I not jump in? Deborah found it (and I encouraged her to join too — mwahaha!). At first I thought I’d make pincushions. They look great and I enjoy making them. But there are a lot of softie mushrooms out there, so I decided I’d mix it up a bit.

I adore the mushroom people on these two postcards from my German Friday morning sewing friends. These postcards are my springboard.

I’m also taking inspiration from “Jahreszeitkinder;” tiny figures representing the seasons or particular plants (Waldorf adherents probably have some of one kind or another in their seasonal displays). Above are two mushroomy people I made from a Dutch kit bought at Kreativ Welt (annual craft convention in Wiesbaden, Germany), and a chestnut boy and Chinese Lantern/pumpkin girl made by artist Birgit Kaiser bought at the Sticheleien (another annual fair of all things needlecraft, which I’m missing that right now). I’ve bought quite a few Jahreszeitkinder from Birgit over the years — I think my parents and sister all have at least one, and maybe the in-laws too.

Here’s one of several Star Babies by Birgit that graces our Christmas tree each year.

And this Icicle Lady is one of my favorites.

I’ll share my take on these once the swapping is complete.

04 Feb

Forest Pillows

I’ve been reading Susie Monday’s blog and gaining interest in her “Sensory Alphabet;” those elemental things we respond to. Wondering what mine is, I’ve noticed that I love, love, love to pick out fabrics. When at the Arts & Crafts Center on post in Heidelberg I was always jumping in and grabbing fabrics for people whenever I overheard anyone say “I don’t know what goes with this,” or “Do you think this color works?”
Recently, I bought a pack of fabrics from Pink Chalk just because I liked them (and I had a coupon). When I got them, I realized that they had the same colors as my living room rug, in inverse proportions. I made a pillow from the deer and trees fabric and then couldn’t wait to pick out all the colors for the coordinating patchwork pillow. I think there are only four half squares that use fabric from the collection, and the rest are from my scrap bin. I had great fun sorting through, pulling out bits that worked and arranging them in color families. So I’m guessing color is part of my personal sensory alphabet.
The embroidery is a drawing my son did several years ago. I used it on a gym bag, but since that never gets used, I figured I could give the drawing another go. I wanted to use something that “went” with the forest fabric, but my kids draw mostly race cars and princesses. I figured a bird was good and zip-lining spiders just adds to the intrigue.

This project brings up one more question. We could use a lap quilt for the couch. We’re using one of my house quilts now, but the Hawai’i Quilt Guild is having a “One Block Wonder” class in a few months, and I actually like those. I generally don’t have any interest in patterns, but this is sort of like Log Cabins or 9-Patches — in that you can make the blocks following basic rules and then do whatever you like with them (like group by color, which is apparently one of my strengths). Anyways, I could do it on my own, or not at all, but it could be a nice social opportunity to do it with the Guild and I’d get a utilitarian quilt for the couch out of the deal. My plan would be to use the deer fabric. Since most One Square Wonders are done with florals, this is kinda out there and even I can’t quite imagine if it would look good with relatively clean blotches of color, or if it would be dull, dull, dull. Any thoughts?