Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Don't Your Wish You Were Down Under?

This was a wedding present for my lovely niece, Julia, and her beloved, Andres, AKA, Dre - unfortunately, I cannot figure out how to do the accent on the "e" on this computer, sorry Dre.  Sometimes, I get to make and plan quilts especially for specific people for special occasions, while at other times, I happen to have a finished quilt I have made because I wanted to make it and then an occasion comes up and the quilt fits and I give it away.  Either way works for me.  But it is fun - and sometimes a challenge - to get to make a special quilt for somebody you love. 

Of course, in this case, I did have plenty of notice of the wedding and thus enough time to make a special quilt just for Julia and Dre.  However, whereas I have known Julia since she was about 3, I actually only met Dre after the two got engaged.  Julia lives in New York City now and it is there she met Dre.  It is there they have made their life together and I didn't know very much at all about that life; what they had in common or what Dre was like.  I knew that his family was from Colombia, that he was born there but had lived in this country since he was a small boy.  So like me, Dre is an emigrant.  I liked that.  And, of course, I liked that Julia loved him and he loved her.  Now that I actually know Dre, I have learned that he is a very nice man indeed, very kind, funny, smart and sweet.  And not only is he good for Julia, we are all very lucky to have him in the family!

I had already made a quilt for Julia when she graduated from college which focused somewhat on her acting interests, and since Dre is not an actor, it didn't make sense to repeat that theme.  So I finally decided just to use what I thought was some beautiful fabric and not do a theme at all!  In 2007, while I still lived in Atlanta, my BFF, Michelle, and I took a great trip to the quilt show in Paducah, KY, and I purchased a bunch of "Australian fabrics" with aboriginal theme prints.  If I am not mistaken, these fabrics were new at the time and I had taken a fancy to them.  Then, when I left Atlanta a year later, at a going away party, my friend Sue May, gave me a bunch of fat quarters of the same type of prints, so I actually had quite a collection of these fabrics which had waited for an opportunity to be used.

They seemed just right and I only had to purchase a couple of additional fat quarters to finish the top, which I hand-pieced.  I used a simple but nice pattern called "Box Step" designed by Daniela Stout and distributed by Cozy Quilt Designs which I had bought at some other occasion.
 I didn't want the entire quilt to be Australian, but thought I'd continue with the "foreign" theme at least, so I went to IKEA and picked out some beautiful fabrics which reminded me of my own Scandinavian background for the back.  Unfortunately, even though they are 100% cotton, these fabrics are not quilting fabrics, but are quite a bit heavier, almost canvas like, so they gave poor Regina quite a challenge. Having such different weight fabrics on the top and the back is apparently not a good idea!  Without Regina Carter, super machine quilter extraordinaire, none of my quilts would amount to anything, so I felt terrible about that.  But, of course she did a beautiful job and didn't complain at all. 

I also owe Regina credit for helping me come up with the name of the quilt.  I really like the dual meaning of it!  I usually print my labels on my ink jet printer and that generally works very well for me.  But in this case, there was an unusual amount of text and I didn't seem to be able to make it all fit and look right.  So I asked my friend, and fellow quilter, Bev Sullivan, who with her husband owns a retail store which, among other things offers custom embroidery on the items they sell, if she could make the label for me - just this once, since it was a special quilt.  And she did.  So the label on this quilt, is especially nice having been embroidered in nice green thread to match the green in the print on the back of the quilt.  I wish I could make all my labels this nice!  But alas, I don't have an embroidery machine and cannot pay Bev to do this every time I make a quilt.  So it's back to the inkjet printer!
I usually make a point of taking pictures of all my quilts before I give them away.  This is something I learned from my very first quilt teacher, Dana Stewart.  She actually counseled never to give away any quilts, saying we would miss our quilts if we gave them away!  In the alternative, she said, we must photograph all our quilts so we would not forget them.  I immediately knew I would follow her second piece of advice and have done so.  This quilt, however, it was too big for Steve to hold alone, so I didn't get to take a picture, but as Dre is quite the photographer, I felt sure I could count on getting some later from him and Julia.  So in this case photo credits go to Julia and Dre.  Thanks for the pictures :)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Scrappy Courthouse I

In 2008, I made my first scrappy courthouse steps quilt. I saw one in a book and fell in love with it and started making mine at a quilt retreat. I used one inch strips and loved it. But once back home, I realized that there was no way I could continue working with those skinny strips for very long, so the quilt ended up as a (quite nice!) wall hanging. See Courthouse Steps to Justice, April 2008.

Nevertheless, I always wanted to make a real quilt using that pattern, so a few years ago, I decided to work with two inch strips and started the first of what I am determined will be a series of scrappy courthouse quilts. I love the way they look and it is such a great way to use up fabric scraps. I need a two inch strip at least 18 inches long and at most 54 inches long of any given fabric, plus somewhat less than a fat quarter for the center squares. That's just a whole bunch of scraps and I love that about this pattern.
I am still a hand piecer at heart and this is a great project for that. It is easy enough to make one block at a time, and doing so enables me to make sure I keep the fabrics in the right orders, which is the trickiest part of doing this. I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to planning the overall layout, just made one block at a time, but am very happy with the way it came out. I had fun using all kinds of different fabrics together, both some older ones and some very new ones including some novelty prints.
I wanted the back to be scrappy as well so I decided to try what I had read about somewhere once, to copy the front onto the back but in a much larger version and made a couple of very large courthouse step blocks. I didn't work the dimensions out in advance, so I still had to add some extra borders, but I still like the way it looks.
I didn't have a plan for the quilt when I made it. I just wanted to make it, I really liked the pattern, wanted to experiment with the larger strips, and needed a hand piecing project. So when it was completed, I added a label - which I think one should always do lest one forgets when it was made etc.! Then I kept the quilt at my house, and only used it once or twice in a pinch hoping that the rightful owners of the quilt would soon turn up.
They finally did in May of 2011, when my dear friend Atteeyah Hollie married her dear friend Nate Stone - who is also a very good friend, but who I don't know nearly as well. Steve and I worked with Atteeyah for many years at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta. Atteeyah came to the Center as a fellow when she graduated from Dartmouth and very quickly turned into an investigator and paralegal who stayed with us for quite a long time doing incredible work in the jails and prisons in Georgia and Alabama. Nate was with her all the time, but he was an architect, so he didn't work with us, we just got to hang out with him occasionally when there was a bit of free time at parties and such.

Atteyah left the Center shortly before we left Atlanta, to go back to her native California to attend law school, but a year ago she and Nate returned to Atlanta and Atteeyah is now a lawyer at the Southern Center where she again works with Steve while Nate has been teaching math at the Atlanta Public Schools (due to the depression, there is not a lot of work for architects these days, but I bet he is a great teacher.)

So when these two lovely, engaging, exciting, smart, beautiful, and wonderful people got married and I didn't have any time at all to make them a quilt, I immediately thought that this quilt would be great for them. It seemed especially appropriate for Atteeyah to have a quilt of the same pattern as the one which hangs in the offices of the Southern Center where she works.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dog Bed 9

My goal of getting a photograph of the receipient dog on the dog bed every time I give one away seems to be impossible to fulfil. I have been holding back pictures of dog beds I gave away several months ago, hoping finally to get the pictures so I could post them with the beds, but have decided to give up. If I ever do get the pictures, I can always post them then.

After all, the important things are that the dogs got their beds and that I recycled the fabric scraps; right?
This dog bed, number 9, went to my very dear friends Denise and Kenneth Thomas, and their dogs Spanky and Katie. Denise and Kenneth are salt of the earth people who are probably the hardest working people I have ever known. Kenneth is the farm manager of Bright Farms, where I live and where Steve grew up. He has worked on this farm since he was a boy. He worked for many years with Steve's father, and when Bob got sick and eventually died, Kenneth took over the operation and has continued to run and take care of the farm. We could not do it without him. Not only does he take care of the farm but he takes care of all of us, all of our homes and everything that needs taking care of. There is nothing he does not know and nothing he cannot fix.

His wonderful wife, Denise, whom he met and married here on the farm, is equally capable. Though she is not a farmer, they do a lot of repair and yard work together, and she has worked for people in the family for many years as well. She was particularly essential in the many years of caring for Bob when he was declining and she stepped right in again when Steve's mother broke her hip a few weeks ago.

Whenever I leave town, they care for my old dog Jesse. He loves to go to their house and is probably more spoiled there than he is at home. He absolutely gets the royal treatment and it is such a treat to me as it could otherwise be hard to leave an old dog to run off to quilt retreats or for several weeks in Denmark. But I know he could not be in better hands with Kenneth and Denise.

Dog Bed 11

This dog bed, number 11, the biggest one yet, went to my friend Cheri Carbone, Danville and Boyle County's dog trainer extraordinaire! I have been so fortunate to get to know Cheri over the past year and have learned so much from her.

Cheri does all things dog here locally, and it is a treat just to watch her around dogs. She is not only extremely knowledgeable and experienced, but she is truly a natural. She makes it all look so easy. The dogs just want to do the right thing around her.
Over the past year, I have been working as a volunteer with the Danville Boyle County Humane Society's Mutts with Manners program, at Northpoint Training Center a local medium security prison, where dogs are trained by prisoners. It is a wonderful and greatly successful program due, in large degree to Cheri's efforts.

We take five dogs at any given time, selected by Cheri from among those scheduled for euthanization. These dogs stay at the prison with the handlers, two to each dog, in the dormitory where all the handlers and dogs live together. The prisoners who work with the dogs are selected by the prison administration. The dogs remain at the prison with their handlers until they are fully trained and ready for adoption, usually 5 to 7 weeks. During that time, the handlers work and live with them full time, socializing them, teaching them basic obedience and often some tricks as well. By the time the dogs leave they have passed their Canine Good Citizen tests, and the dogs who were on death's door step are as attractive and adoptable as the best shelter dogs ever.

It is wonderful for the prisoners, who have something meaningful and practical to do, and it is amazing to see how every single one of those dogs who would have been put down becomes a wonderful, well-behaved, lovable pet. There is not a single one of them I would not love to live with.

Cheri also owns, trains, and boards dogs at her house, so I gave her this dog bed to use for all the dogs who are at her home.