A Mountain of Material

Nate and I had spring break last week. While he spent time with family in Des Moines, I spent the week in my happy place.

I quilted.

I cut and pieced and played with fabric all week!

There were quilt squares in the dining room, rotary cutter and mat in the living room, and bits of fabric and thread everywhere!

It was fabulous!

I was 50 blocks into a scrap quilt when it hit me – this should be my first ever full size quilt!

No little lap quilt or twin size – I was going big!

I got pretty excited – until I did the math.

Then I realized that it would take 120 blocks to complete this quilt.

That equals 120 – 4.5 inch squares, 120 – 5.5 inch squares, 480 – 2 7/8 inch squares, and 480 – 2.25 inch squares. That’s 1200 different pieces – all individually cut and then sewn together.

Oh my.

Then I will need to sew each of those 120 squares together to make the quilt top.

And after I baste it, I will then hand quilt all 120.


This could be a three year project. Or more.

What kind of a crazy person would cut out that many little pieces of fabric just to sew them back together again in a different pattern?

Um, that would be me.

Is it the colors? The textures? The creative process?

Or maybe it’s just the joy of making something that will last.

Whatever it is – I’m in deep.

If you need me, you will find me sewing my way out of a mountain of tiny pieces of material!

And smiling.




Little Things Mean a Lot

From the Archives, February 2012. One of my all-time favorite posts! A good reminder of how important the little things are in a marriage! Still true six years later.

QuiltI’ve always loved quilts. I’m amazed at how a quilter can take separate pieces of material and turn them into one beautiful creation.

The definition of a quilt is simple – a bed coverlet of two layers of cloth filled with padding held in place by ties or stitched designs.

I’ve found from experience that the more stitches or ties that are binding the pieces together – the longer the quilt lasts.

Several years ago I sewed a quilt for Matt’s bed. It looked nice at first – but since I made it very quickly, the few ties that I put in to hold it together soon broke in the strain of use.

I have another quilt that my Grandma made for me during my college years. She carefully tied it every few inches making a tight and warm covering that has stood the test of time and is still being used today.

One quilt lasted and one didn’t.

Marriage is like a quilt.

It begins as two separate lives that are bound together by a vow.

Then the process of “quilting” begins.

A good quilter knows that many small stitches hold better than a few big ones. The same is true of marriage. It’s the little things in daily life that will make a marriage strong.

Little things that say “I love you and you are important to me.”

Things like – getting up early to make your husband breakfast and packing his lunch before he leaves for work.

And getting the special “thank you – I appreciate this” look while he holds your hand and blesses  that breakfast.

It’s when your husband puts a CD in and immediately goes to your favorite song, or when he gives you all the M & M’s from his trail mix, or takes the dish towel from you and sends you to the couch to rest.

It’s letting your husband eat the last piece of apple pie, or choose what to watch on TV, or sleep undisturbed in the recliner on a Sunday afternoon.

It’s a kiss when they leave and a kiss when they return.

It’s a phone call at lunch break, a back rub, a shared joke.

It’s taking time to really listen.

It’s putting their needs ahead of your own.

It’s those little things.

Stitch by stitch. Everyday. Binding your hearts together.

“Little Things Mean A Lot”
Kitty Kallen

Blow me a kiss from across the room
Say I look nice when I’m not
Touch my hair as you pass my chair
Little things mean a lot

Give me your arm as we cross the street
Call me at six on the dot
A line a day when you’re far away
Little things mean a lot

Don’t have to buy me diamonds and pearls
Champagne, sables or such
I never cared much for diamonds and pearls
’cause honestly, honey, they just cost money

Give me your hand when I’ve lost the way
Give me a shoulder to cry on
Whether the day is bright or gray
Give me your heart to rely on

Send me the warmth of a secret smile
To show me you haven’t forgot
For always and ever, now and forever
Little things mean a lot

The Big Picture

My quilt project this year is rather unique.

Normally when I make a quilt block you can see the quilt’s design – Ohio star, log cabin, 9 patch.

But these quilt blocks look odd – almost like a mistake.


It’s only when you put them together that you see the pattern.

Each individual quilt block becomes a part of the bigger picture.

Stars are formed.

Random squares are joined to make paths and outline.

Each individual block makes sense when it becomes a part of the whole.

IMG_3279So often there are seasons in life that are just like my quilt blocks – on their own they don’t make sense.

They look odd and out of context.

They seem to be a mistake.

We wish we could design them differently – rearrange the situations, change the outcomes, make each one pretty in it’s own way.

But God – the master Designer – saw the big picture.

He knew how the individual parts would come together.

He would make the shadows into stars.

And define them with light.

A perfect plan.


…And it is Finished – Finally


The quilt is finished.


It was the first solo quilt project I started after a beginners quilting class over 20 years ago.

Each piece was hand cut and hand stitched.

I spent hours of my first pregnancy stitching my way through morning sickness, doctor’s visits, back pain, and heartburn.

I finished the piecing, struggled with the sashing, and started hand-quilting it together.

It was at this point I got tired and frustrated.  I had measured a little wrong – okay a lot wrong – and it wasn’t laying right.

I gave up, tucked the unfinished quilt in a box and promised myself I would finish it after the baby was born.

Fast forward 20 years, 5 kids, and 2 moves later. I found the quilt in that same box – with the quilting needle in the middle of a stitch, exactly where I left it.

As I picked the quilt up and smoothed it out – I knew I had to finish it. I found my quilt frame and picked up where I left off, finally putting the final stitches in the binding this week.

It’s not perfect – not by a long shot. Those imperfections didn’t magically disappear as it sat in storage.

No – the quilt didn’t change – but I did. I was finally ready to look past the mistakes and see the beauty.

I was ready to accept it for what it was and appreciate the lessons it taught me.

That sometimes we have to work with what we have.

That if we focus on the negative we often lose sight of the positive.

That if you just take a step back, and get the bigger picture, the little things don’t seem as important.

This first quilt will never win any prizes – but in my heart it will always be a work of art – a visual reminder of the life lessons it’s taken me 20 years to learn.

A Quilt Adventure

It was during a random conversation between my niece and I about our shared interest in quilting that the idea for a quilt trip was formed.

And it – as some ideas do – stretched and changed until it became a reality last weekend.

Group Picture

My mom, Angel Girl, one sister,2 nieces, and I traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to explore the International Quilt Study Center and Museum at the University of Nebraska.

Although not everyone in our group were quilters – we all appreciated the beauty and history of the quilts displayed.

I loved the old quilts the best – the ones carefully cut out of old garments or the bits and pieces of left-over material.

Everyone chose a favorite. Angel Girl chose a autograph quilt from the 1930’s which included autographs from the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University.


After fully immersing ourselves in quilts for several hours – we decided that it was past time for lunch.

Our criteria – something unique that we wouldn’t get at home.

After much deliberation – our choice was The Pho Factory – a brand new Vietnamese Restaurant close to the museum.  It was fab-u-lous!

After almost drowning ourselves in noodle bowls bigger than serving bowls, we left with an appreciation for chop sticks and a new addiction to Vietnamese fish sauce. (Well – at least I did!)

We grabbed a bubble tea to go – and were not thrilled to learn that the “bubbles” tasted like black licorice.  The strawberry slushie “tea” part was yummy, though.

By then it was time to get out of Lincoln. The Cornhuskers played at home that night and traffic was getting heavy.

Since most of  Nebraska was in Lincoln at the game,  we headed back to Omaha and my nieces’ favorite bookstore downtown.

Book Store

In a family of bibliophiles – it was like Christmas morning.

Books from floor to ceiling – stacked on chairs, on the floor, in boxes. Thousands of books.

I wanted to touch them all – but I only bought one.

We would still be there if it wasn’t for the lure of Ted and Jerry’s ice cream. With fun flavors like coffee and doughnuts, black raspberry chocolate chunk and Dutch chocolate in hand – we headed back to my nieces for pizza.

And yes – we ate our dessert first.  It was an adventure day after all!  🙂

It was a little later than we planned when we finally headed for home – but we filled the day with fun and memories.

All that because a random conversation sparked an adventure idea.

Measure. Cut. Sew. Snip. Press. Repeat.

I’ve spent every spare minute the past week cutting material into little tiny pieces and then sewing it back together.

Maybe I’m crazy.

At least a little addicted.

But there’s something very relaxing about cutting little squares and methodically sewing them together to make geometric designs.

Sewing Quilt

My mind wonders as I measure, cut, sew, snip, press, repeat.

I plan menus, pray, listen to music.


Measure, cut, sew, snip, press, repeat.

Piece by piece quilt blocks are forming in my hands.

Green. Blue. Plaid. Solid.

Rhythm. Order. Control.

Quilt Blocks

As my hands work, my mind slowly untangles the snarls of the day, almost unconsciously.

Measure, cut, sew, snip, press, repeat.

Schedules are figured out. Projects planned.  Lists created.

Little by little my pile of finished blocks grows – a tangible and very satisfying measure of my time.

A quilt is forming.

And peace reigns.


The Material Just Spoke to Me…

I had a quiet house this last week.

With three kids at TeenPact Iowa, Buddy at Grandma’s, and Matt working every day – it was just me. All day. In a big quiet house.

For a stay-at-home home school mom – it is a rare event. It was also wonderful! 🙂

So what did I do with my week of alone time? Well – I started the week with a big list of things to accomplish – but I got a little sidetracked.

On day two of my week of quiet I was still on target. My job for that day was to sort through all of the material we had stashed – fold it all neatly and put it in Rubbermaid tubs. After all the crafting the girls have been doing – and all the costumes they had made – it was a huge mess!

Matt carried the tubs upstairs before he left for the day and I got busy right after breakfast.

I was all business at first – but didn’t take long for the material to start speaking to me.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened – but I found myself putting pieces together to see how they would look. Little pieces of calico would call out “look at me! Wouldn’t I look pretty beside the dark blue over there?”

A quilt was forming in my mind.

By the time I had discovered 2 bias square plastic quilt forms that I had gotten at a garage sale – and forgotten I owned –  I was a goner.

I mean honestly – who wants to sort insulated coveralls and clean the attic when you can quilt!
Quilt 2Jan came home that night to a mess. I was sitting on the floor of the living room surrounded by fabric scraps and wearing a silly grin.

He helped me carry the sewing machine up to the sun room when the light was better and got out of my way.

I was on a roll!
Quilt 1By the time he came home the next night – the material was still spread out all over the living room, and threads and scraps had seeped into the entire downstairs.

But there was also piles of 9 patch quilt squares on both the dining room and sun room floor.

He took me to the Amish store for more material and batting.

Quilt 3By the end of the week I had enough squares to piece together 2 twin size quilts, a back ache from sewing, and a major mess in my house.

But boy was it fun!

I haven’t patched a quilt together for 19 years. Yes – 19!

I’m a little out of practice – but it’s all coming back to me.

The next step is backing, batting and basting. Then I have a whole lot of hand quilting to do.

Wonder if I can get them done and on the girl’s beds before Dagmar’s graduation in May?

Anybody up for a quilting bee? 🙂