Love Letters to Friends, As Well As Very Important Musings on Earth Shattering Matters:
Thread Count, Powerlifts, Quilting, Karaoke, Lemon Cookies, and Graphomania

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Hand-Pieced Stars and Basement Dwellers: A Fan Letter to D&D's B&B

...being another Quilt of Gratitude for a friend and her hubby, whose basement apartment has a revolving door.

Last year around this time, after I started my traveling job, I decided I was going to have to figure out how to hand-piece quilts, not knowing yet how I would cart my sewing machine around to client sites.  I wanted something portable, with small pieces I could kit up and throw in my carry-on, to while away the dead hours at the airport doing something more useful than scowling at other business travelers.

At the same time, I had been keeping in the back of my mind that I wanted to do a traditional-style quilt for my teammate D, and as it turned out, those two notions dovetailed nicely into this:

Stars n Stripes 4eva.  Figured out how to mitre the corners on multiple borders finally, too.

After some fiddling, this turned out to actually be really easy and relaxing, and I am readily starting up another hand-piecing project as we speak.  I used 2" hexagons and diamonds
from Inklingo (a tool whereby you can print shapes with seam allowance lines right onto fabric from your printer, and use the lines to ensure straight, accurate piecing).

Diamonds: Girl's Best Friend

The stars and the cream hexies are hand pieced, but the borders and quilting are by machine. While it did take me most of a year to complete this, I did get a lot faster once I found my groove and I'd say I can probably cut the time down next time. But part of the pleasure of hand-piecing is the measured, non-mechanical aspect, and in that respect slowing it all down was no bad thing.  I did misjudge my width somehow, so this ended up being a kind of weirdly skinny throw instead of the twin-size I was shooting for.  But the small-print browns and reds for the stars and the motley of cream/parchment colored backing fabrics turned out just as I envisioned; like something right off of Martha Washington's guest cot.

"George!  Get the extra candles, your mother is coming to stay with us."

The back was mostly a tiny dotted red, used in the first border on the front, and a bit of the same brown used for binding.

D is  the setter for my volleyball team...or, I should say, she WAS the setter for my OLD volleyball team, which I can no longer play on now that I am gone most of the week.  I am surprised to realize that the loss of my weekly v-ball outing is about the biggest bummer of my travel schedule - like 99% of my life carries on unabated, but I keenly feel the loss of my adult rec leagues, which I've been in since 2000.  In my sprightly youth, that might be 2x or 3x a week, and of course, as every adult rec league player knows, the best part of the hour of volleyball you play with your team is the 3 hours of drinking and eating you do afterwards.  And, though time marches on, and I am more of a 1x per weeker now, I do feel I have a few more good years left in me to play, if I can locate a team in every city I move to.....but they'll have to be as accommodating of my sudden, Tourette's-like outbursts of profanity and floor-slapping as all of my past teams have learned to become, and also learn to ignore my patented flurry-of-fury diving barrel role, taught to me by a sadistic high school coach and guaranteed to elicit gasps of dismay from opponents (previously, because of what balls I was able to get to because of it; currently, because they're probably worried I won't be able to get back up again, given my advanced years.)

So why am I sending this to D? Is it just because of her stellar setting?  Or perhaps because of the old laminate sewing table she gave me, gratis, when she learned I was picking up sewing?  (That table, earmarked for the annual D&D Garage Sale, is nothing I would have ever thought to buy but it is AWESOME, especially for quilting.  It played a key role in the establishment of my little apartment "studio" space and is, along with weekly post-game beer-and-bacon with the team, one of the things I miss most about living in one place that has my furniture in it.)
The sewing machine sits flush with the table, making it easier to push fabric straight across.  The leaf folds out to make a handy extension spot for that Ott lamp.   I played with the table arrangement for awhile before landing on.....

...this one.  D's sewing table playing a pivotal - literally - role between ironing board and cutting mat. Or it did, when I had an apartment.

Is it because of the fabric she bought me when she was noodling around at some outdoor craft fair in Michigan, out of the goodness of her heart?  Or the invitation to her and her hubby's annual March Madness marathon, a 36-hour college basketball and crock-potted-appetizer freakout the likes of which you have never seen (unless you were there last year and I was already passed out)?

All of those are well and good, but this all goes back to my Era of Distress, in 2010-11, when a spot of homelessness and joblessness sent me into a mental and financial spiral from which I have only recently fully recovered.  As with many of the recipients of my quilts of gratitude before her, D stepped up by offering me the use of their basement apartment, which has been the temporary residence for I don't even know how many wayward friends and relations: it was like the original AirBnB combined with Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, combined with a Hobbit hole, because the ceilings are low enough that I can bop my head against them if I take a little hop.  Besides me, at various times, D's hairdresser lived down there, and at one point hubby's college friend Steve, who is taller than I am and so had many more painful encounters with the ceiling and the dropped air duct in the bedroom area.  There have been nieces going to school in the city, and food vendors in town to work at nearby Wrigley Field for the summer.  To this illustrious crew, I was added for that summer, after I came back home but before I got a job that would support an apartment of my own. (And my volleyball league payments. And, eventually, my quilting habit.)  It gave me a rare and delightful opportunity, too, to see more of someone I generally only saw once a week for a few hours, and on occasion pop out of the basement unit to play a rousing game of Wii tennis, or enjoy an evening beer on the back porch while watching the neighbors putting up ugly plastic yard decorations.

It's probably no wonder D&D would throw their doors open to those in need, given their occupations are counseling and managing at a venerable international service organization, respectively: this is the kind of humanitarian gesture they've built their lives making, so why would it not extend to their home?  As someone who should surely, clearly, DEFINITELY not ever enter into the Caring Professions, I can only marvel at this level of selflessness - and be, selfishly, grateful that it was extended to me too.

So to you, D&D, who have welcomed so many friends and relations and crock-pots and garage sale items into your home, I send these hand-sewn stars and stripes with much love and gratitude, maybe for you to toss in the back of the car in case the nights get chilly up at the lake.  It's not every day one's setter settles you in her basement.  Given the near-constant procession you have through your downstairs B&B it probably feels like a pretty distant and commonplace event, but I assure you you it was significant to me, and I appreciate it still - so consider this a karmic Yelp review.  Hopefully when I'm in town we can find some time to hit the old team table at O'Donovan's; at minimum I will plan to make March Madness next year - bar opens at 10 am, right?

Besos, and many thanks!


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