Friday, July 10, 2009

Birth of a Quilt

Non-quilters are known to ask why anyone would cut a pretty piece of fabric into so many little pieces just to sew it back together. There is no correct answer, but for me it is just the obsession with the fabric. I have to touch it, to see the play of the dye or print across the quilt as it comes back together.

But it takes so long to do!

Thus begins a quilt. Eight pieces of fabric cut into 224 pieces each, laid out by value and sewn into 112 A arcs and 112 B arcs. And that is Step One and Two.

My daughter wanted a wedding ring quilt for her wedding gift. The traditional interwoven arcs are very pretty on their own, but my daughter is not a traditional, gently rounded sort of girl. She’s angles and spikes and excitement. In a search for the perfect pattern we agreed on Judy Niemeyer’s Wedding Star pattern.

I had the fun of finding the perfect shades of blues to suit the design. The not so fun washing and ironing the fabric in case it bleeds. And then the cutting. And cutting. And cutting. And finally I had eight neat stacks of 224 pieces.
As I sewed the first two pieces onto the paper pattern, all 112 arc A patterns, I began to ask, whose idea was this? Oh yeah, mine.

The instructions are amazing, the fabric pieces generous enough to allow room for error. Trimming at each step gives you the perfect seam allowance to line up the next piece. Basically, you sew, press open, fold pattern back and trim. Seven times on each of the 112 arcs. Then move to arc B.

I haven’t counted the pieces/patterns needed for the stars and background melons. I don’t want to know.

Again, whose idea was this? How long would it have taken me to go online and find a neat-looking quilt in blue and white to give her? Why did I wait until a month before the wedding to start it? Why did I want to do this?

Deep down I know why. It’s an heirloom gift. Something to pass down through generations. A hundred years from now some descendants of mine will look at the quilt and think of the hours and the love that went into this quilt. They’ll see photos of my daughter on her wedding day and the joy on all our faces.

They can wrap themselves (gently, please!) in a fabric hug and feel the love instilled in the quilt, and maybe know a little bit about me. They’ll have something tangible to reflect the passion for fabric that has been passed down in our genes, and maybe it will explain their own need to pick up the scissors and cut a pretty piece of fabric into little pieces, just to sew it back together.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lessons From Deb

(NOTE: The following is the eulogy I wrote for my sister-in-law who left us sooner than we expected, dying in her sleep. As you can probably guess from reading, the computer repair guy is my brother. They met when he would come to work on her company's computer. I share this because I think these lessons are key to our survival. After reading, call, text, email or hug your loved ones and let them know how much you love them. The clock is ticking.)

Lessons From Deb

The life path Deb planned was a difficult one, appearing to be uphill all the way. Yet she packed well for her journey. She passed along to me three tools for success, although she might not have realized she was doing so at the time.

1. Laugh often.
2. Love deeply.
3. If the computer repair guy is cute, make sure the system breaks down often.

Through the years we spent a lot of time laughing over the phone lines as we talked about life. I hear her laughter whenever I think of her, most often when I picture her saying "I told you so" about the length of her life. She saw the finish line a lot closer than I was willing to believe.

Deb loved with all her being. Love kept her moving forward when roadblocks appeared, and gave her the desire to succeed.

As for the computer repair guy, see lesson number two.

Deb's love and laughter helped carry me through some rough times and always reminded me what our purpose is in life. She lived the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:7 ~

"Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything without weakening."

Love you, Deb.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Home to Stay

That morning I was awakened by a phone call. As usually happens, the cell phone disconnected before I could get it to pick up. My brother’s name showed up on the caller ID.

That’s not good. They don’t call at this hour. Is something wrong with Bob?

I immediately hit the call button, but went straight to voicemail.

This is so not good. Who else would Deb be calling at this hour?

I set the phone down and waited, knowing she’d call again. When the phone rang I grabbed it. It had my other brother’s name on the caller ID.

What the hell...?

His wife was on the line. “Deb died in her sleep last night.”

I gasped.

No, she’s not gone. It’s not time yet.

We talked for a minute, then I called my brother as I walked down the hill to Mom’s apartment to break the news to her. My brother had to put me on hold and I quickly told Mom, so he couldn’t hear my voice break.

This isn’t real.

When my brother picked up I handed the phone to Mom and asked for hers in return. I called my daughters, neither of whom answered before the call goes to voicemail. They each called back as soon as they saw Mom’s name in the caller ID. The tears started as I told my older daughter the news. I was able to talk a minute later when the younger daughter called.

The older one cried with me. The younger said she’d let me go since I had the other one on hold. I learned later she called her husband and cried to him, shielding me from her pain.

I made it through work in a daze, the hours broken by calls to my brother and from my girls. It still didn’t really hit.

The next night I lay down and cried hard, but as soon as the tears came, my daughter called. She has a way of doing that. She talked about everything but our loss. She told me about the conversation she just had with my brother.

In her amazing way, she rambled to him about her memories of my brother when she was young. She reminded him of the Thanksgiving when she was two or three. She had stuck olives on each of the fingers on one hand and offered them to the grownups. Everybody ate their olives, except for Bob.

Bob didn’t like olives so he said no thanks. My daughter went on around the room, but found her way back to him. “Uncle Bob, it makes me sad that you don’t like olives,” she said, one olive still on the tip of a finger.

He caved. He ate the olive.

She laughed about it on the phone with him. “You must love me to eat olives.” She acknowledged that her fiancĂ© wouldn’t do something like that for her, so her uncle must love her even more than her fiancĂ©.

Bob agreed. At some point their phone call ended. The next morning he emailed my daughter and me to say thanks. After laughing with her on the phone he was able to go to sleep, something he’d been unable to do the night before.

Through the next few days, my younger daughter called to check on me, filling me in on the little things going on in her day. She knew how much I was hurting, even though she didn’t say so.

Within a week, life seemed normal again.

Wait, no, she can’t be gone. Let me call her and tell her...

She was only sixty. In my family, that’s so young. In hers, it was old. She’d told us for years that she wouldn’t make it into her 60s.

No, you can’t know that. You can’t just decide you’re old and leave. You have to wait ‘til we’re old, too. It’s the rules, isn’t it?

I laughed with my brother over the thought of her waiting for us at the Pearly Gates. She’d have her hands on her hips and be smiling. “I told you so.”

But, Deb, you can’t go...

I hear her laugh every time I picture her like that.

As the pain lifted, I noticed my dog slowing down. There was nothing specific, nothing to tell me to take him to the vet. Then one morning he woke up with his muzzle swollen. I assumed it was an allergic reaction to a bite, and in the next few days, the swelling lessened.

Then it came back, and this time he would only eat treats, not his usual food. We went to the vet who thought it was an abscessed bite. After shots and a prescription we went home to get better.

The swelling went down, but he still didn’t eat. Now he only wanted soft foods. We went back to the vet.

“It could be that it needs more antibiotics so we’ll try them for three weeks. But it could also be an infected tumor.”

The word hit me hard.

He’s too young, only 13. Old for his breed, but my last Aussie lived to be 16. He has three years left.

He had three days left. The first day, he stopped eating at all, even when I forced liquids on him. He grew weak, but he still followed me around. The following morning he could barely stand and we went back to the vet.

“We’ll give him IV fluids and antibiotics while we wait for the biopsy results.”

But I already knew the answer. A day later the vet called to tell me he was gone.

But, wait! He can’t be gone! I’m not ready. I still have three years with him...I don’t want to play this game anymore. This isn’t what we agreed to, is it?

Around me people are doing the same things they did a month ago. Going to work, school, parties, parks. The little stray dog who rescued me still wants to play. The guinea pig wants his lettuce. Can’t they see something is wrong?

He’s gone. She’s gone. Can’t you see the hole where they are missing? Can’t you see the hole in me? They’re gone...

I picked up my dog’s ashes today. The receptionist petted the box as she carried it to me. “Here you go, Woody. Your mama’s here. You can go home now.”

Deb, take care of my boy for me. Woody, don’t bark when you see her, you always scare her. Watch out for Deb ‘til we get there.

The box is so small. It doesn’t fill the hole in me. But my boy is home to stay.

Deb Fish
December 17, 1948 - April 2, 2009

Ridgerunner’s Ebony Woods
March 1996 - May 1, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fairy Follow Up

It appears the holidays took over my life, as I quit posting once I got busy sewing. Since the last post shows some of the plotting for the fairy quilt, I'll start there. Want to see the finished project?

Instead of using one of the layouts I plotted in EQ6, my daughter used her graphics program to get her ideas across. I added the wavy seam between the borders so I could play with my new toy. I really love those Amy Brown blocks, and want to make one for myself.