Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Most Important Things

It's been a little quiet around here lately for the simple reason that May has been difficult this year.

Two weeks ago we got the news that my grandfather, my dad's father, had suffered a massive heart attack. The day after Mother's Day, we found out that my grandmother had walked into the room that morning just in time to see him pass away. I never had the chance to know Grandpa as much as I wanted to, partly because he lived across the country in Minnesota. He loved to drive all over the country with my grandmother in their camper, and occasionally they would swing through our town when I was young, often bringing along a paper bag full of balloons as a special treat for my sister and me. They came by a few times after my girls were born, and my oldest daughter vividly remembers playing card games with Grandma and eating jelly beans in their camper with them while it was parked in our driveway. Although talk always seemed to settle on frivolous things -- the weather, the dogs -- I remember one visit when Grandpa somehow wound up talking about his military service during World War II when he worked in the motor pool for Patton's Third Army. It was a glimpse into a side of him that I hadn't seen before, and I wish I could have heard more. Though he never broached the subject with us, I know that Grandpa was part of the American forces who liberated Dachau concentration camp way back in 1945. I was always terribly proud of his part in that, and I remember thinking of him when I visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. years ago as I was standing in front of the candles lit for Dachau in the Hall of Remembrance. It's hard to believe that Grandpa won't be driving up our driveway again, doting on my dogs and chatting with his great granddaughters.

Only a few days after that, my dad's best friend from college had a sudden heart attack. We worried and prayed and texted messages back and forth with his wife until he was thankfully able to return home after treatment. But I was shaken. It's hard to see the people you looked up to as a child suddenly struggling with health issues, as though your own stability is somehow tied up with theirs.

And then last Sunday night my oldest daughter broke her arm at a church youth gathering, leading to a host of medical appointments and a new normal for the next few months as we help her recover from this intensely painful injury. It's been hard for her to concentrate with all the stress and discomfort, but thankfully we were able to get her last tests finished last night for the school year so that she could start her summer and really begin a time of rest and healing.

As I sit here typing at my computer, I realize that the last few weeks have left me feeling vulnerable. It's not that you don't know that these sorts of things can happen to the people you love. This is life, after all. But when it does, it feels like a tidal wave sweeping over you. The one blessing in it for me is that troubles inevitably bring clarity to my life.  Little, petty things that seemed like such a big deal before, now fall to the side where they belong. The most important things -- which are almost always the things I managed to neglect due to the demands of my over packed schedule -- come to the forefront. You suddenly realize what matters most, and it's okay to let the rest go. And the people you love -- your family and friends -- you understand how much you need them, how important it is to spend time with them while you have them, to not hesitate to say, "I love you" or hug them close as often as you can.

So today's schedule will look a little different for me. Yes, there will be dishes and grading and maybe a bit of writing. But there will also be Lego building and chocolate chip cookie baking, cuddling under quilts and games of Fishy Tag in the pool. Because every minute I spend with this dear family of mine is more precious to me than anything else in the world.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


Up to this point, I've worked with quilting cotton, linen, canvas, flannel, double gauze, felt, fleece, and lawn. So when Riley Blake Designs gave me the chance to do a blog post about their wool, I jumped at the challenge.

These gorgeous bundles of color showed up at my door, and I was completely blown away. Aren't they stunning?!

I did some looking around online for project ideas using wool, and after much thought, I finally decided that it would be fun to try working on some stuffed animals. I purchased a few patterns from Willowyn on Etsy and got to work.

Sometimes I think it's good for me to try something completely different from what I'm used to. This project was such a fun change of pace for me, and I absolutely loved sewing together this little bunny. It was surprising to me how forgiving the wool seemed to be. Even when stitches weren't perfect, you couldn't really tell, and I was so thrilled with how she turned out. I did almost all of my sewing by machine except for a bit of hand stitching with matching gray thread to close up a few gaps after stuffing. Her ears are lined with a striped print from Date Night, and I embroidered her nose and eyes with black Aurifloss.

I loved the clothing patterns that Willowyn designed to go with her stuffed friends, so I just had to make a sweet pair of overalls in a favorite pink floral print from the Lemonade Sundae collection which I've been hoarding for a while. The little silver snaps on her outfit make me smile.

Her tiny wool coat (my daughter chose the color) has a hood lined in a print from Lori Holt's upcoming Granny Chic collection. I actually got this fabric to use in another upcoming project, but when I saw how perfectly the colors complemented that shade of green wool, I just couldn't settle for anything else.

I made a button bow to complement her outfit. Normally I wouldn't sew a button onto a stuffed animal, but since this one is for me, I made an exception.

During one of the nights when I was working on this project, my own Bunny was having trouble falling asleep. She wandered into my sewing room and asked if she could do my hair for a few minutes while I worked. So I let her practice her French braiding skills on me while I cut out pattern pieces, and together we watched an old Jeanne Crain movie called Margie on my computer. When I showed Bunny my finished doll the next day, she squealed and immediately asked, "What's her name?" I told her that I hadn't decided yet. She clutched the bunny to her chest in a hug and said confidently, "Margie. You have to call her Margie."

And that, my friends, was that.
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