Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gift Alert: Antonsen Baby Quilt

Let's flash back to warm, sultry summer nights... Let's think: August.

In August I completed the Antonsen Baby Quilt.

2010 was a year of making baby quilts - which is something I normally do not do - since babies, well, poop, throw-up and generally drool over everything. Still... these were desperate times, and I consider these baby quilts a gift of love, more than a gift of necessity for a newborn.

And so the Antonsen Baby Quilt came about. It started with the Class V South Dakota Ag and Rural Leadership program class graduation back in February. Angie Antonsen, another SDARL wife, and I skipped out on afternoon sessions and went shopping in Chamberlain, SD. Who knew we'd find so many great things browsing Main Street? I learned Angie was a quilter... had a unique style... and over coffee learned she and Travis were expecting a child.

But not just any child. A miracle. Here's how the whole conversation came about...

Alaina: So, do you think you and Travis would like to have more children?
Angie: Well... actually...
*long pause*
Angie: Do you remember at the start of SDARL (18 months ago) we announced we were going to have a baby?
Alaina: Ah, yes... vaguely.
Angie: Well, we lost the baby. And we're hesitant to tell anyone we're pregnant now, in case we lose this baby... (Angie and Travis had two little boys already)...

Angie went on to explain that they have had miscarriages before (much to my surprise, and sadness!). With every son born, there had been a miscarriage. Miscarriage, pregnancy to term (Kaleb!); miscarriage, pregnancy to term (Kellen!); miscarriage, miscarriage (Announced at SDARL Class V introduction weekend), and then this pregancy.

Since it was still early, Angie asked me to keep the news quiet until they heard official (March 10). I tentatively asked if I could make Baby Antonsen a quilt - and she said "Sure!"

So on March 10, I sent Angie a quick text message: Thinking of you - any news?! And she replied right back: Yes - all is well - we're going to have a baby!

I only knew the baby was due in August. Having finished up the quilt early, I packed it away neatly and sent it with Eric to a SDARL summer alumni function. Then baby Kolton was born (the third boy!). I wasn't sure Eric had actually delivered my quilt, until I received this thank-you note from Angie and Travis:

Thank ya so much for the beautiful baby quilt, Alaina - you did a great job with it!! I love the pattern...
 My sister-in-law Mandy has also admired the pattern, and has put a request in for one just like it for Baby Burt #2 due in May... We'll see...!

The pattern is so simple, and created by my great friend Linda Louder at Ivy Lane Quilts (Elkton, SD). It's made entirely from a jelly roll, with an addition fabric inside the squares (I chose a soft flannel in neutral colors). The Jelly Roll is Moda's "Who Loves U?".

The back is made from remaining Jelly Roll strips (Jelly Rolls are 2.5-in. wide strips, about 40-42 inches long). This was the ultimate complete randomizer for me - I closed my eyes and grabbed strips to piece. This should make my friend Becky Deutsch very proud.

I'm very happy with how it turned out - and it's fun remembering back to this night when Becky was visiting me and we ended up at Quilts & Vines quilt show (see August post on a recap of that event). Looks like I was a 'smidge sunburned from it. :)

This pattern is a great idea for a new baby coming into anyone's life. Simple to put together, and stunningly classic (especially if you don't know if baby is a girl or a boy). My friend Becky quilted this for me in huge bugs (I think it was maybe 2 rows deep, 2 patterns across repeat).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gift alert: Susie's Star Sampler

I've been remiss in updating all the great quilt projects I've made lately, so let me get started with this "whopper."

It's a 34-star sampler made for my mother-in-law, Susie. The gift was given in honor of her 65th birthday (Aug. 28), in which all the brothers and sisters, their families, and some aunt and uncles converged at the home place to celebrate.

 Here is Susie getting help from her grandsons, Wyatt and Coleman, with the wrapping paper.

 At this point, the kids have lost interest (since the wrapping paper is off), but Susie just realized what's in the box - a quilt!
 Her oldest son, Eric (my hubby!), helps her unwrap the quilt, but not before Susie admires the personalized patch on the back of the quilt. This patch is important because it keeps track of the of various information pertinent to the quilt. This patch listed the quilt's name (yes, they usually have a name!), whom is it given to (Susie), why it was given (in honor of her birthday), and who made the quilt (yours truly).

As the quilt is opened, you can truly see the joy in Susie's expression. "Look at all those stars!" I can perfectly recall her saying.
The quilt was given by "all the kids" and here they are: Nick, Stacy, Susie, Stephanie and Eric.

 Of course, it wouldn't be complete without a shot of the quiltmaker (me on the right!), Susie and Eric.

To get the full perspective of this quilt, I had my friend Becky Deutsch help me display it off of our deck this summer. It's made with reproduction type fabric, which was new to me. Quite a contrast from the hungry caterpillar quilt, huh?

Each star block is very significant to me because it represents a prayer I prayed for Susie throughout the quilt making process. For example, some of the large blocks represent "family" and "health," while smaller blocks are for each of her children, grandchildren, etc. There's even one for her "career." With the quilt came a block-map with descriptions of each prayer and bible verse used during the process.

In all, it took me just over a year from the start of this project to the finish. Of course, I'm marking the start of the project from when I purchased the kit from Homestead Hearth in Mexico, MO. I found the example in America Loves Scrap Quilts Spring 2009 magazine and thought it would be ideal for Susie. I probably made the first fabric cut in August 2009, but put it aside seriously until March 2010, when I was already scheming a wonderful birthday party surprise for Susie.

I just asked Susie how the quilt was holding up now that the weather has turned decidedly more chilly. She reported, "The quilt is wonderful and warm!"

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Gift alert: Cowboy purse

Last March, Eric and I took a Spring Break trip to Tecumseh, NE, of all places. Friends of Eric's lived there, and we thought it would be fun to crash with them for a weekend and catch up. I seized the opportunity to use my handy-dandy "Quilts Shoppes of Nebraska" pamphlet and stop at each one we came across. Fun!

While visiting, Anna took me to a quilt store in Pawnee City, NE called "Heavenly Treasures." This little shop was jam-packed with all sorts of fun fabric and sewing supplies, and was in an old church, to boot! While shopping, Anna pointed out this really fun cowboy boot fabric. Having just made a high-dollar purse, I thought it would be fun to use the fabric in my next designs (and make one for Anna, too!).

Later in the day Rob and Anna took us to Schilling Bride Winery, also located in Pawnee City, for some tasty samples. I liked the "Red Hot Red" vino.

Anyways, while we visited, Anna mentioned she liked my Mini-Bow Tucks purse (which I have in MN 2009 Shop Hop Fabric). I thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to make Anna a purse like that using the cowboy boot fabric we found?"

With the idea hatched, I plotted. Because of other projects ahead of this, I finally completed it in August. After showing my Quilt Guild, mom, best friend and anyone else who was near how cute it turned out, I lovingly packaged it up with a short note to Anna and mailed it last week.
(See the cute red button we found? It's leather...)

In case you didn't know, I love to get mail. But what I love more, is surprising people with something fun in their mailbox.

I got the sweetest thank-you note from Anna yesterday. It made my heart plum-tickled. Anna wrote:

"I was so surprised to get your package in the mail, and then I open it and you made me a special purse!! Wow, I love it!" and continued, "It is perfect size! Love all the pockets."
(There are the pockets she's raving about)

But what really got me in the heart strings was how she signed the card, "Keep that Range Man in line!" Ah...she knows us too well.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Wager - and County Fair results

Mom, Becky, Dad and I congregated in the beef barn yesterday afternoon before heading up the hill to see how the quilt competition went. While waiting for Dad to stop talking, the girls came up with our "wager" for the 2010 competition.

The first wager was, whoever didn't do the best out of the three ladies, would receive 1 yard of fabric from the other two competitors. So, in essence, the LOSER would receive 2 yards of fabric.

The second wager was, whoever did the best - and this was calculated by percentage of quilts entered/placings (not very effective) - would have the ultimate TRUMP card on Show Day. Meaning, whatever they said could trump anyone else's complaint/comment/action. (I basically have this power anyways, but if I won, I'd have impunity from any other negative feedback!). Ha ha!

So, we speed-walked up the hill. The first quilt we saw was Mary Burt's Monster Quilt featuring applique technique - a blue ribbon! Whoo-hoo, mom! Then we found Becky's Quilt of Valor. No ribbon (Sorry Becks, we need to get you entered in a different class). Just below Becky's quilt hung my Buffalo wall-hanging project - which I entered in the Professional Category "Original Technique or Design" - 2nd place! Alright!! Then we spotted Mary Burt's Farmyard kids quilt - no ribbon. Bummer. Just a few quilts down was the Star Sampler I had made - 3rd place! It was hung very nicely, which made me feel better about myself.

I wanted to see what quilts placed ahead of me in the quilt competition. I found out that my Star Sampler quilt was third to the Best-In-Show quilt, pieced by a local quilt store owner in Deer River. I didn't feel bad placing third to that quilt! The second place quilt was a very extensively-pieced sampler of some sort - which was beautiful, too.

In the sewing competition - Mary Burt's clothespin dress was 2nd place. It beat out an identical project! My jacket won a Blue Ribbon (first place), as did my Safari Purse. Yahhoo! The second purse I entered was a "non-qualifier" since I didn't know you couldn't enter more than one project in the same class. Oh well.

Here's how the results stood:

Mom: Blue Ribbon - Monster Quilt; Red Ribbon - Clothespin Dress, No Placing - Barnyard Animals Quilt
Becky: No Placing - Quilt of Valor
Me: Red Ribbon - Buffalo Wall Hanging; White Ribbon - Star Sampler; Blue Ribbon - Swing Jacket; Blue Ribbon - Safari Purse; No Entry - Western Purse

So, Becky's getting two yards of fabric out of the deal. But she's also bringing Dairy Queen, McDonalds and Donuts for the next three days to the fair (as is tradition).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

County fair time!

You might be wondering why I would have a quilting post entitled "County fair time!" Well, let me explain. My family grew up going to the county fair. And 2010 marks my family's 22nd consecutive year exhibiting beef cattle at the fair. Let me give you some background...

It began with my dad when he was a 4-Her exhibiting dairy cattle (and I'm sure, chickens, but let's not go there this morning...). As with all 4-Hers, they hit an age when they no longer qualify to compete in 4-H competition (around age 18-19). As was the case with my dad. He disappeared for a while to find a wife and start a family - oh, and go to college and establish a career and all.

Our family moved to the farm in about 1986. One of the first activities my brother and I got involved with in our new location was 4-H. Between us we entered "static" projects in the county fair such as rockets, baking and photography. It wasn't until 1988 that we brought our first beef animal - Jason's 4-H breeding heifer project, Sissy. I brought my first beef project one year later (1989 - I was 8 years old) - Daisy. The rest is history, as they say....

But our quilting entries at the County fair are relatively new. Maybe four years or so in the making, I'm not so sure. Anyways, it was a decision that my mom, Becky and I made to bring a few of our favorite quilt projects to the fair. Having no idea how our quilts would do in such a competition (there are many quilting enthusiasts in Grand Rapids!), we decided to make an annual wager between us.

The first year it was between just mom and I. It went something to the effect of, "Whoever wins a ribbon with their quilt has ultimate privileges on Show Day." Well, wouldn't you know - my mom's quilt won a ribbon? Oh, how my dad enjoyed playing that trump card during Show Day!

The next year, I think I won a ribbon, but that wasn't cause for us to celebrate. It was Becky Deutch's first year entering a quilt into the county fair - her first quilt - and she won 1st place (something both mom and I hadn't done the previous year). We were so tickled with Becky's placing we forgot all about the wager.

Then there was the missing ribbon fiasco. All three of us brought quilts to the competition. Mom and Becky won ribbons, but my original design - a wall-hanging showcasing 20 years of exhibiting cattle made of old 4-H ribbons - didn't earn a ribbon at all. I was devastated, since it was such a cool, unique design. Really something I hadn't seen before. I made it as a surprise for my parents, unveiling it at the fair (it now hangs in their living room). When mom and Becky went to collect the quilts at the end of the fair, they discovered that my quilt was missing it's first place ribbon! My head hung in shame all week for nothing! But it taught me a valuable lesson.

Last year the three of us brought identical quilts - a Mystery Quilt project we foolishly bought in to - and only one of the three was awarded a ribbon.

Anyways - who cares about old ribbons!? We certainly don't, except to somewhat document the past. It was a sweet treat to be able to go with my mom and Becky on Tuesday evening, arms brimming with quilted projects (and sewing ones for the first time, too!) to the Home Activities building. We can enter quilts Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning. Then the build is closed for judging the jams, jellies, baked goods, handwork, quilting and flowers.

The doors (and results) will be released by 11 a.m. today - Thursday - of the fair. This is also the day we bring our cattle to the fair (10 head this year), so it's quite busy. But once all the washing is done and the cows are settled, someone courageously walks up the hill to the Home Activities buildings and giggles with the insider-knowledge of how the quilts did.

Usually my dad beats us all up the hill to see how the competition went. Most times he doesn't even have a clue as to what quilts were entered, let alone their names. If you wait and get the report from him, it goes something like this, "Ah, mom won a ribbon. I don't know which quilt - the blue one." Not helpful, but we can usually piece together the results from his shotty reporting.

So what did we enter this year? Mom entered two big quilts - a Funny Farm large-sized baby quilt and her Monster Quilt (with applique and embroidery technique). She also brought a "Clothespin Dress" to be entered in the sewing competition. Becky brought her Quilt of Valor, which she learned how to put the binding on by hand last week while visiting my house. And I brought two quilts - a large queen size Star Sampler (photos later) and my originally designed Buffalo project. Then I managed to get two purses (Safari and Boots - a new one) entered into the sewing competition, along with my swing jacket.

Now, if only we can decide on our wager for the 2010 County fair...hmm...

Monday, August 16, 2010

One happy baby...

Yesterday, Aug. 15, I was able to give my very first baby quilt. It's to one of my college roommate who is due Sept. 4. I couldn't wait until September to deliver this uber-cute quilt, so I wrapped it up and gave it during the shower. I'm sure the mom, KP, can sympathize with not being able to wait. She and her hubby are very excited for the little "grape" to arrive! (And yes, they are having a baby girl.)

Here I am proudly displaying my work. The yellow is actually "snuggly" (similar to Minkee Mates, but with less stretch). The back is done entirely in the yellow snuggly!

I stumbled across this super cute, super easy pattern back in May during mother's day weekend. I was with my mom and best friend Becky Deutsch. We visited "Quilts Around the Corner" in Hibbing, MN, and fell in love with a pink-and-brown version of this quilt. Knowing several friends were going to have babies in the coming months, I couldn't resist.

The snuggly is cut in quarter-circles and appliqued on top of square blocks which provides excellent stabilization for the snuggly. The blocks are arranged in a winding road pattern. We chose yellow for this project because Becky said, "It promotes eye development."

Here is the mom-to-be, KP, taking the quilt out of the package. They're "ooohing" over the quilt label on the back, which is a photo of Becky, KP and I take in July after a serious heart-to-heart conversation (and dinner of Kabobs).

It's kind of hard to see the quilting from this angle, but it's done in hot pink thread and a "flutterbys" pattern. Cute butterfly patterns. The quilting isn't easy to see, but it gives great texture to the entire project. Becky and I rent time on long-arm machines at Quilt Yourself in Savage, MN. We're saving up to buy our own machine.
All I can say is, this baby is going to really happy having tummy-time on a quilt like this. If she can wrestle it away from her parents who are still "oohing" over the snuggly.

Quilting hiatus

I swear I haven't been on quilting hiatus. It's just that most of my quilting projects lately are gifts - and no one wants to spoil the punch by showing off a gift before it's given. So alas, August has arrived, when I can start giving these wonderful quilt gifts! I've got four surprises all neatly packaged for the lucky recipients to be... and will begin featuring the projects right here on Mama Bear Quilts.

In other news... I've found full-time employment as editor of Tri-State Livestock News. It's a weekly livestock publication based in Spearfish, SD. If you're familiar with South Dakota geography, you will note that this office is approximately 14 miles shy of the SD-WY border. Meanwhile, I reside about 20 miles shy of the SD-MN border. There's about 400-some odd miles in between the two. So I'm set-up with a home office.

Finding the balance between work and play (and family time) can be a challenge, but one I think I'm successfully navigating.

Over the weekend, my best friend Becky Deutsch and I stumbled onto a wonderful quilt-wine venue called "Quilts & Vines." It's not new, but was new to us. The Strawbale Vineyard near Renner, SD, (just north of Sioux Falls) has an entire day devoted to draping quilts over grapevines, barns, anywhere and invites the public to come on out and sample wines while browsing quilts. We, along with the help of winery staff, have re-named the event to a more "male-friendly" term (since there was a high percentage of 50+ year old ladies in attendance) to "Blankets & Booze" - which we felt was sure to draw in males from a tri-state area. It was a toss-up for our favorite vino: Grandpa Pete's Strawberry-Rhubarb or the Wineritas!