Saturday, July 11, 2020

Word Search Quilt

Over last summer, fall and winter I worked on and completed a quilt for my youngest son.  He had an old quilt on his bed, one that I made in college with reproduction 20s fabrics.  I no longer like those fabrics and found them to be totally ridiculous on my 5 year old's bed.  Since he was/is learning to read, I thought it would be fun to make him a word search quilt that he could interact with and find hidden words and messages.  Some of the words are really beyond him still, like creature or astute, but there are others in there that are perfect, like his name and boy, poop or Mommy loves me.  I spent quite a bit of time during the summer and fall hand appliquéing all the letters to fabric.  I used Kona black for the letters, chose a font from my computer, enlarged it and then made templates of the entire alphabet.  Then I cut squares from all the low volume, whitish fabric I had for the background squares. I made a drawing of what I wanted the finished project would look like, and then made a list of how many of each letter I needed to stitch.  I started with words I wanted to make and then filled in all the letters around them.  I did lose at least one word, silly, when my boys came into the sewing room and rearranged my letters for me while they were waiting on the wall to be stitched together.  By the time I realized what had happened, it was really too late.  I chose to let it go.  The only unpicking I did was a set of letters that spelled SOB.  I just couldn't let that go.

When I had all the letters finished, I machine pieced them together, added a couple of borders to make it big enough for his twin bed.  I looked at several different backing options, a few of which I really liked.

Ultimately, I went with the owls.  I just thought he would really enjoy them.  Once basted, I hand quilted it using valdani size 12 cotton thread.  The thread was a variegated grey-blue, and most of it was pretty light.  Using a big stitch really makes for a fast hand quilt.  I like the look of it and it feels great.

I made a pillow in the same style for one of my daughters and hand quilted it with a tradtitional small stitch.  Comparatively, it took much longer to complete, but I thought it also quilted up beautifully, so either are good options.

This spring as part of our distance learning I sent a picture of the quilt to my son's teacher.  I think she had them working on word searches and thought she'd enjoy it.  She sent it to the entire kindergarten class and had them find as many words as they could as one of the their daily activities.  Miles chose to do his on his actual quilt.  We had fun.

The only thing I would do really differently if I were to make this quilt again, is to change the words.  He's already on to other things.  This year he's into nature in a big way.  We've been watching our caterpillars eat our plants and turn into butterflies.  We've been watching and identifying the birds in our backyard.  We've counted lizards and learned about them, and watched the moon and the tides.  He no longer wants to play the piano, but would rather take violin lessons, and at 6 he can do so much more than he could just a year ago.  But I guess that's the nature of childhood and parenthood.  The quilt captures a moment in his childhood.  I could make him several more on his way to manhood and each would be a different quilt.

I originally planned to make two quilts, one for each of my sons.  However, after much deliberation, my older son has requested something completely different.  He would like me to make him a platypus quilt.  Something with a big platypus in the middle, either pieced or appliquéd, with a green background and lots of other animals on the sides.  I haven't begun the work for that quilt yet.  I thought maybe something in the style of Elizabeth Hartman, but lately I've really been more excited about mixing pieced work with applique.  So maybe I'll do some piecing in between or around appliquéd animals?  Drafting that will take some energy and time.  I have some other projects to finish up before taking on this new project.  

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Old Maid's Puzzle Blocks

Two of my kids used to go to a Waldorf school in our area.  There are so many things I love about it, especially the Waldorf approach to learning and being human.  It spoke to my children, but it also spoke to me. At Waldorf schools, they immerse themselves in a thing until they are done.  They allow themselves the time to understand a concept on many different levels.  To let it really seep in.  By the time a study is complete, my kids knew the thing in their guts;  it had become a part of them.

Frequently, I heard ideas sprinkled throughout my interactions with the community that rang true, especially from their teachers.  Mostly it reinforced what I already believed, but occasionally there was a message tucked into a conversation that I needed for myself.  One time, when I was talking with a teacher about kids finishing projects, she said it was like a muscle.  You finish one project, and you are better able to begin and see the next project through to its finish.  Basically, it's a good practice.  I have no problem with this concept.  I believe in it.  But sometimes I hit an obstacle trying to put it into practice.

Right now, as I (and every other parent around the world) homeschool my children for an unknown amount of time, I am revisiting some of these valuable lessons and asking myself important questions.  How do I want my children and myself to spend each day?  What is the right balance between work and play?  What makes an experience valuable and how do I make sure that my family is nourished, body and soul, through this time?  As I navigate my way through assigned work and "enrichment" offered by the public school system, I am startled by the stark difference between it and the Waldorf community.  One is a "do it all" approach and one is methodical and slow.  What is right for my family and how do I find a balance that keeps my children tapped into their school community while being true to the things I believe have value?  Like all people who embrace the Waldorf philosophy around the world, I limit technology at my home, so online curriculums are hard for me to embrace.  I believe young children should have tactile learning experiences without much screen time.  So I have begun building projects based on the learning my children need to be doing.  Reading practice, math practice- yes.  But also projects that let them think about the natural world, how things work, and art, and writing. Games that make us laugh and help us be together.  And puzzles.  I love puzzles.

My kids found this guy in our house.
We think we found him in our insect ID book.

We are making gardens and studying backyard birds.  We are looking into building birdhouses and how to attract specific species of birds to our yard.  We are drawing pictures and thinking about flight.  We are reading fantasy books and writing about what we see each day.  Each day we try to dig a little deeper, find out something more or just take time to see our surroundings.  We need to water our garden, make our food, engage our bodies and our brains.  And right now, that's a lot of work.

Miles is working on an oriole study.
But I am also thinking about myself.  I find so much pleasure in quilting.  It brings me peace, and grounds me.  It connects me to the moment, but also to the past and future.  I delight in texture and color.  I love the finish, but I really love the process.  I like to make quilts from patterns and from my head.  I have so many ideas that I sometimes have trouble staying with a project all the way through to its finish.  I suspect I'm not alone in this.  As a result, I have a pile of WIPs that have been neglected for a long time.  Some of them have been waiting years to be finished, but somewhere along the way they were set aside, and if not abandoned all together, they have certainly been neglected.  I haven't lost interest, I just hit a road block in each of them.  I see that I haven't embraced the practice of taking a project to its finish.  That's not to say I haven't finished anything.  In fact, I've been fairly productive.  But I also have plenty of room to grow in this area.

Now that I have some time at home, I'm really going to try to tackle those projects, or at least some of them.   I picked out a few projects to start.  I have three main pieces to complete.  One is a traditional Old Maid's Puzzle quilt.  I pieced several blocks from Anna Maria Horner's Luminous (maybe 2) line.  I almost never make an entire quilt from one collection of fabric.  It just isn't for me generally. In fact, I never buy an entire line of fabric.  But in this case, I bought it thinking that I had a use for it and then when I found I didn't, I thought I could repurpose it.  I wanted to keep the collection together because I loved the drape of the fabric.  I have a shot cotton quilt that is my favorite, and I felt that this would be a similar feel.  I did a sample block out of Kona cotton, just to test it out, and found it was a lot of piecing, but nothing difficult.  And then I started working with the woven fabric. All the points were difficult to get right.  The fabric slides around and as pretty as it is, I found it was not really fun to piece.  I got through seven of the sixteen blocks, put it away, and only pulled it out when I was moving my sewing room a few weeks ago.  I decided to complete a block a day, and planned to have it be a 64" square throw.  Then my daughter decided she really liked it and would like it on her bed.  She sleeps on a top bunk, so the quilt doesn't need to be generously sized.  Too big and the bed is difficult to make.  So I thought I could add one more row of blocks to the bottom and it would be perfect.  Unfortunately, I didn't have enough of any one piece of fabric to make that work.  So I came up with a second idea.  I would cut pieces out of my scraps to make 4"x5" rectangles and piece 2 rows of them as a border for the top and bottom.  But, as I worked on that, she didn't like it.  I checked in with the rest of my family, who didn't like it, and then I texted pictures out to my extended family, who didn't like it...

So, now I'm stuck again.  But this time, I need to come up with a solution.  I'm giving myself a few days to ponder my options, and then I will face this problem again.