Monday, December 11, 2017

On Quilting

Once upon a time I got the worst haircut of my life. I remember telling the lady at SuperCuts, "Halle Berry." There's several problems with this scene. #1: SuperCuts & #2: I'm not Halle Berry. For some reason, I had an abundance of photos taken during that time. Even a hugely involved Sears portrait that included my entire extended family. After waiting 743289 hours with five tired, hungry toddlers(and 4 men), they managed to squeeze us all into a tiny room and flash us out. When the womenfolk tried to argue that it wasn't what we wanted, the menfolk overruled us that it was "fine." I am not even joking, I looked like Powder. Y'all remember Powder? Yeah. Sears portraits? Supercuts? Obviously it was a season of poor decisions in my life.

I only remembered that awful haircut because I had it when my Grandma Watson came to visit that year; the year she taught me to quilt. I have a picture somewhere of me beaming over my first project as she looked on with pride. Even she hated that haircut and told me so many times.

Over the years, I've gone through seasons of quilting. Much like most areas of my life, sewing, photography, parenting, I don't know what the heck I'm doing, but I do it with gusto. Sometimes it works out, sometimes cussing is involved. 

Since September, I've made quite a few quilts. The proximity of Nippori + Yokota churning out babies has made it a necessity. We also have this guy that comes once a month to our BX with Moda fabric. He's unavoidable. He parks himself in front of the commissary, what are we to do? Walk past without buying sixteen yards of the cutest prints you've ever seen ever? That's a ridiculous suggestion no matter how many times Sean makes it.

I have officially finished my last quilt of the year. I have more I want to do--namely something I can't get out of my head for a particular friend that is about to circle the globe with 5 children on a sailboat...they might get cold--, but I have killed my machine. It was a slow, painful, loud death. When I first started toying around with fabric, I decided I'd skip all the basic stuff and go straight for machine quilting. I didn't watch any tutorials. I didn't read about it. My experience with sewing predated youtube. The only thing I knew is that I needed something called a walking foot.

One day I was in Target and I saw a machine on the clearance end cap that advertised a walking foot included. Hot dang, that machine was on clearance for cheaper than a walking foot sold separately. I should've known. I shouldn't bust on it because that machine has lasted me probably a decade or more. It is a very, very basic machine not at all meant to quilt anything. I have forced it to churn way too many layers through it's poor feed dogs. It is no wonder that it has finally given up the ghost, but it didn't go without a fight.

I tend to sew once the kids are in bed and I've had coffee for dinner. Most nights, Sean will stay up and play piano while I sew. It's a beautiful scene of cozy contentment. Tonight he said, "Y'know, I can play over the chugging of the machine, but your string of cuss words is throwing me off." And then Sean, of all people, went on to (I don't want to use the word "lecture") lecture me about how yelling at inanimate objects does not make them perform better. Au contraire, mon frere.

Who has two quilts finished that proves otherwise? This potty mouth.

My Grandma said every quilt needs to have a story. Eleanor's Rainbow Quilt:

Eleanor is a baby born to someone who has very quickly become one of my dearest friends at Yokota. Her ma worked with Sean at Langley and our friendship blossomed when her own sitcom of moving around the world began.  This one was actually quilt #2 for Eleanor. I had finished a whole quilt top and hated it so much I threw it away. Chucked it right in the garbage. Eleanor is a rainbow baby, so when the thought of a rainbow quilt popped into my brain, I obsessed over it until it was reality. They didn't know the sex of the baby, so I had to keep it gender neutral. However, I didn't want it to be all animals or solids. I LOVE the floral fabrics Japan puts out. This one got equal parts animals and flowers. It turned out a tad girly, so I'm thankful Eleanor turned out to be a girly, too. This is the only quilt I've ever free motion quilted thanks to the teaching, patience, and use of equipment of an awesome friend.

The story of this one is that my neighbor had a fourth baby; a girl. I know from experience that by the time baby #4 shows up, gifts aren't so readily pouring in. This is called a bucket quilt, I think? I may have made that up, but that's what I've always called them. They're tiny and just the right size for tucking around an infant in their car seat without it dragging on the ground. Once they're too big for it, it's a great size for a lovie. 

My leaf quilt. I kept this one. I bought the fox fabric before we visited the fox sanctuary on the way to Misawa. Having mingled with actual foxes, I felt justified sewing with it. Before, it would've been just fox fabric. Now I'm like, "Yeah, foxes. I know them."


The story behind this one is: I fell in love with the teepee fabric. The end. This one was so much fun to put together. Due to Christmas present sewing, I had to pack this one away and it will have to be quilted someday in the future.


The hexagons and red fabric I bought way back in 2009 in San Antonio. They were both made in Japan. It seems I've always preferred Japanese fabric, even if I didn't realize it at the time of purchase.

(Poor Gus. The sweater humiliates him. He thinks he looks awful in turtlenecks. Don't we all?)

The last three were Christmas presents. Well, this one was actually a, "You're coming to Japan!! We're going to be neighbors!" quilt. Except their orders never came and all of those hopes were dashed upon the rocks. Now it's a, "Remember that time you almost came to Japan?" quilt.


How sweet is Rees?! Perfect quilt model. 

My friend and her ma posted these pictures on her Instagram with these words: "When you think you're moving to Japan and you are pulled down off the panic ledge by your dear, dear friend who happens to live there and who also happens to whip up baby quilts in her non-existent spare time--this one complete with celebratory and welcoming Japanese scooter riding elephants and panda bears and all things "kawaii" and adorable--and you dust off all your random Japanese words and phrases and maps and pictures and then just as unexpectedly you think you probably aren't moving halfway around the world and you begin to panic all over again mourning the loss of all that you were suddenly excited for and you look at these perfectly hand selected Japanese prints and you remember that you have awesome friends and adventures and experiences no matter where you go and you smile and you wait and you live and love and laugh and share right where you are, while you can." 

Amen, my Friend! 


I made my niece a quilt a few years ago and it turned out way smaller than I thought it would.  Yet, I have seen her contorting into a ball to get under it and use it. That kinda of quilt appreciation gets ya another one! This one should be a little easier to snuggle up under. This was, by far, the most time consuming quilt I've ever made. Not hard, just a whole lotta steps. I actually miscalculated a TON and got another quilt top out of it that is slightly different. It was a pleasant surprise when I realized how many extra blocks I'd made and that it was enough for another quilt. 



And one for her little brother. I get that almost 13 year old boys would probably rather have a video game or a gift card. He probably doesn't need a blanket given his state of residence. However, an almost 13 year old boy does need tons of prayer and that's what I do when I quilt. I mean, when I'm not railing at the machine. I think all the happy thoughts about the person I am quilting for(until the machine jams). I pray and I stroll down memory lane(until the bobbin runs out). I dream and wonder about their future(until the tension goes loopy). I fill my quilts with equal parts mistake and love.


I'd like to think my Grandma Watson would be proud of my progress. I use to send her scraps of the fabrics I was working with and I still set aside a little pile from every project. I don't know why. Maybe it's just having the thought of her close as I go about my sewing. I hate throwing those little scraps away. I know she would crack up at me if she was a fly on my wall sewing machine.

Every quilt is a tiny bit better than the last. They are still something I'd be hesitant to proudly show a real quilter, but I am proud enough to pass it on to people I love who hopefully won't look too closely at the jacked upedness of my creations.

So if you received a quilt from me this year, know that you mean a lot to me and I am entrusting a huge fabric piece of me to your care. Also, don't pull any loose threads! 

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