“Earthquake Consolation” quilts – the process

To learn more about the “why” of these quilts and for pictures of each quilt individually, please read this post.

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After the earthquake happened and I decided I wanted to make these quilts, I set a couple goals for myself:

  1. a bold, graphic design (i.e. simple and fast)
  2. using as much fabric from my stash as possible

This tutorial by Emily Dennis of Quilty Love inspired me to make my own stripes from the embarrassingly vast stacks of Kona solids I’d been hoarding. Other than the flannel for the backing (from Joann) and 3 yards of Kona white plus about a yard for one of the bindings (which was purely a stylistic choice, I really didn’t need to buy it), all other fabric for all six of these quilts came from my stash. And, I feel the need to confess that although my green and gray piles are pretty small now, that doesn’t mean my solids drawer is anywhere close to empty. I guess I’d better keep on making quilts!

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For days and days, all I did was cut out strips of solids (in a few different widths). Then I grouped the grays, greens, and whites together, sewed the pieces together into long enough strips, and then spent a lot of time on the floor puzzling out combinations.

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There’s Ellie’s little project too!

In the end, I had enough gray for 4 quilts, enough green for 3 and enough white for 5, which ended up being enough for the six quilts I wanted to make. (That equated to 3 gray/white quilts, 1 gray/green quilt, and 2 green/white quilts.) Hooray!

Having taken a walking foot quilting class in March 2019 with Jacquie Gering through the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild, I wanted to try out a bunch of new quilting patterns. The first one I sewed was “organic curves”. I freehanded the first curve (marking with my Hera marker) and then echoed the rest.

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During that process, the quilt top shifted frustratingly and that pushed me to give spray basting a try. I took Jacquie’s advice (spray outdoors on my driveway on top of an old sheet and then transport it in!) and it worked great. I may have become a spray basting convert, at least for big quilts.

For 3 of the quilts, I used the fancy stitches on my [not-fancy-at-all] sewing machine.

Earthquake consolation quilt pictures - 19 of 28Earthquake consolation quilt pictures - 13 of 28Earthquake consolation quilt pictures - 12 of 28 I just quilted in straight lines but the decorative stitches resulted in really fun texture!

For the final two quilts, I used a normal straight stitch but worked off a grid, rather than just straight from top to bottom.

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For the bindings, I also used solids (wanting the plaids on the back to be the only print in the quilt).

Earthquake consolation quilt pictures - 26 of 28Six quilts all together are heavy! Also, hi Jonas fishing in the background!

I did the vast majority of the quilting in about 10 days in July, in no small part thanks to my mother-in-law and her graciously rescuing me by taking my children off to her house for many, many hours. 🙂 By July 18th, I had finished all the machine sewing, just in time to take off for Alaska on July 24th.

Earthquake consolation quilt pictures - 4 of 28quilting finally finished!

Once we got to Alaska, I hand sewed down the bindings (six quilts in a week!) and basted on the labels, and after giving them away, asked for them all back so I could finish the labels off with a blanket stitch.

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It was definitely the most sewing I’ve done in a long time but oh so worth it!

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cousins snuggling under one of the quilts ❤

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“Earthquake Consolation” in six quilts

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On November 30, 2018,  a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Southcentral Alaska, just 10 miles north of Anchorage. (That, if you don’t know, is a REALLY STRONG EARTHQUAKE.) Nineteen members of my family live in Anchorage (both my parents, three of my siblings and their spouses, and 11 of my nieces and nephews). There were over 30 aftershocks that day, including several with magnitudes of over 5.0 (which are properly strong earthquakes in their own right).

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To say that it was an incredibly scary, awful day is a woefully inadequate understatement. My kids were at their grandma’s house that day and I was supposed to be working but instead I just sat at my computer and cried, scrolling Facebook for news and updates and wishing (illogically I know) that I could be there, suffering with them, rather than safe and sound in my boringly clean and intact house on the other side of the country.

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Thankfully, within about 45 minutes of the quake (and just minutes after I found out what had happened), I was able to get in touch with my family and so I knew very quickly that everyone was physically OK. They all had some scary stories to tell (driving while electrical transformers exploded nearby for example) but all were safe and for that I was (and am) so grateful.

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As the day continued though, I started to hear the sad stories of pottery collections destroyed, vintage Pyrex lost forever, glass and juice and milk intermingling on a kitchen floor, and it was almost more than I could take not being able to do anything to help.

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What can one person do when her loved ones are suffering nearly 4000 miles away? Well, not much in the moment but pray and leave love-filled Facebook comments but when she knows how to quilt, she can make quilts.

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And so, about a week later, I hatched a plan to sew everyone a quilt, for any future earthquakes (of which there have been SO many more over the past year) and for any time they were sad (or cold!).

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Knowing that we would all be together in the summer (August 2019), I set myself the goal of sewing six quilts (one each for my mom, dad, and the families of my four siblings) to be finished in time to give out at the family reunion. One of my brothers does not live in Anchorage (they live in Northern Ireland) but I figured they probably need love just as much as any of us, right? And so the “Earthquake Consolation” series was launched.

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I backed them with flannel (to be extra warm and cuddly) and poured my love into every stitch.

Earthquake consolation quilt pictures - 27 of 28Numbered in age order (my mom being the 2nd oldest member of our family)

I so loved watched everyone wrap themselves up in their quilts, of course couldn’t help but cry as I explained why I’d made them, and then loved watching the cousins use them. I’m sure the white stripes won’t be white for long and I’m glad. I hope they don’t ever have to get used for a big earthquake again but who doesn’t need to wrap themselves in love every so often, earthquake or not?

Earthquake consolation quilt pictures - 5 of 28Earthquake consolation quilt pictures - 6 of 28I especially love seeing my brother and I hugging in the background of this picture.

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On November 30, 2019, my brother Chris posted a couple pictures of us with their quilt and wrote, ” My sister made us all Earthquake Quilts as a way of processing how scared and helpless she felt after the 7.1 earthquake we experienced a year ago today. It was honestly a pretty traumatic couple of weeks (no thanks to the literally hundreds of aftershocks) but at least we got a beautiful quit out of it, right?” I hadn’t actually thought of my making these quilts as a way for me to process my feelings because I was so focused on conveying my love to my family but he’s right. It did feel right and good to be doing something tangible after feeling so helpless and useless. And so, in the end, we all got something out of this process – for them, beautiful quilts and for me, purpose and usefulness (and some therapy!). And now, I need to make one more of these – for my family! We probably shouldn’t be the only ones without an Earthquake Quilt!

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For more on the process and all the nerdy, quilty details, please see this post.

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Hallelujah! Yay! Christ is Risen!

A couple years ago, Ellie and Marko collaboratively wrote a Christmas song that begins, “Hallelujah! Yay! Christ is Born!” And today, I find myself singing, “Hallelujah! Yay! Christ is Risen!” It might not be your traditional majestic Easter hymn but it gets the message across, don’t you think?

Happy Easter, friends and family! We love you!

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And yes, I did make us matchy-matchy clothes this year because, who wouldn’t want to have matching skirts and matching bow ties? Age appropriately, Nik’s bow tie really ties and Marko’s is Velcro. Marko is super into wearing bow ties right now. He’s thrilled to have two. I’m thrilled that they’re so easy to sew. I’ve been using this great tutorial for Marko’s and I used this tutorial for Nik’s.

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Alleluia, Christ is born, our Light!

Merry Christmas!

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Though the cold grows stronger,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia,
Though the world loves night,

Yet the days grow longer,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia,
Chris is born our Light.

“Earth Today Rejoices”, John Mason Neale (1830-1894)

Love, Nik, Laura, Ellie, and Marko

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P.S. Want to watch our children grow? See the Christmas posts from 20172016, 201520142013 (Marko appears!)20122011, and 2010 (such a tiny baby, and only one!)

Posted in Ellie, family, friends, holidays, love, Mark | 3 Comments

The dark dispelled by incarnate love: the Light of the World was born!

Merry Christmas!

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The only light in Bethlehem
Shone down from heaven above.
And wrapped inside of Mary’s womb
It burst into the room.
The dark dispelled by’ncarnate love
The Light of the World was born.

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Love, Nik, Laura, Ellie, and Marko

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For the entirety of the Christmas poem from which the title of this post is drawn (and to sing along), see 2015’s Christmas post. My dear friend Martha wrote it and I loved singing it in church with our church family yesterday morning. It’s one of my favorites, as you might be able to guess because this is the 3rd year in a row I’ve featured it. 🙂

P.S. Want to watch our children grow? See the Christmas post from 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010

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Posted in Ellie, family, friends, holidays, love, Mark | 2 Comments

My essential sewing supplies

I’m often asked for recommendations for essential sewing supplies. In addition, I’ve just begun offering sewing lessons in my home. So this post is for my students and anyone else who is interested in having the best tools for sewing.

Required for all sewing projects

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Rotary cutter/ruler/mat plus extra blades: I like Olfa cutting mats and rotary cutters and Omnigrid rulers. I have this Olfa rotary cutter, this Omnigrid 6″x24″ ruler as my main ruler (plus a couple others, such as the 4″x14″ ruler in the picture ), and this Olfa cutting mat. I also like to watch for sales on extra blades because they are pricey and it’s nice to buy them when they’re on sale and not when I’m in a pinch and really need one but they’re full price. (Technically speaking, you could get by with just fabric scissors. However, using a rotary cutter/mat/ruler is infinitely faster, easier, and especially more accurate. They are definitely worth the investment.)

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Fabric-only scissors: At a minimum, you should have one big pair for cutting fabric and one small pair (good for hand sewing, snipping threads, etc). For big scissors, I have had this pair for 8+ years and am only now needing to get them sharpened – they’re really great. For small, I have this little pair and like them because the tips are really sharp.

Be sure to threaten family members and friends with DEATH if they use them for anything other than fabric!

Seam ripper (totally required, you will mess up) – I like the Dritz ergonomic one. You want to be comfortable when ripping out a really long seam.

pins and a pin cushion: I highly recommend using a magnetic pin cushion, because it’s 60 million times easier to use than a traditional pin cushion! Just throw your pins at it. I like pins with a round head but I have also discovered that everyone has very distinct preferences for pins so choose what you like.

Super helpful but not absolutely necessary

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Seam gauge – You really should have a seam gauge if you want to sew clothing but I also use them for bags and even sometimes for quilts. I have four because I’m always losing one around my sewing room, thinking that it’s lost forever, buying another one, and then finding the lost one . 🙂

Zipper foot – If your machine didn’t come with one and you think you’ll want to sew zippers for clothing or bags, you’ll need to purchase one. This is specific to your machine.

Walking foot – If you want to do any straight line quilting (required for this), much sewing with flannel or knits, or if you want to make bags, a walking foot will make your life WAY easier. I use mine all the time and would consider it a required part of my sewing equipment. More expensive machines come with them. My machine is high quality (cost around $400) but I had to buy my walking foot. I think it was around $30.  It was definitely worth the investment for the long term. You’ll need to buy one specific to your machine.

Quarter-inch foot: Most machines come with a standard presser foot that is bigger than 1/4″ (usually 3/8″). If you plan on doing any quilting, you should sew a sample seam to determine what your standard foot is and then purchase a 1/4″ foot if you need it (specific to your machine). I love mine and use it as my main presser foot.

Extra bobbins and a bobbin holder:  You’ll want to have extra bobbins so that you can easily use multiple colors of thread.  Usually the machine only comes with a few. With lots of extra bobbins, you’ll want a place to store them. I have a cheap bobbin holder (like this one) although there are nicer ones out there.

Pro Tip: Be sure that the bobbins you buy are compatible with your machine. I have to buy bobbins directly from the Viking dealer because the “standard/universal” bobbins don’t fit.

215Let the record show that I only rolled up my flexible measuring tape because that’s how my mother stores hers and I didn’t want her to have to cringe when she looked at this picture. 🙂 Usually, mine is in a jumbled pile.

Flexible measuring tape – This is required if you’re planning on sewing clothes. You’ll use a flexible measuring tape to take the necessary measurements for choosing the pattern size and/or drafting a pattern.

Hera marker – I just got one of these and it’s SO much better than using fabric markers for marking lines when doing bags and quilts.  It’s definitely optional but if you think you’ll do much quilting, the Hera marker is cheap and super awesome! I wish I had bought one long ago.

Wonder clips: As with the Hera marker, Wonder clips are not necessary at all but they make life WAY easier when sewing bags, binding quilts, or doing anything that is thick and difficult to get pins through.

Fabric marking pens: When tracing patterns to cut out, I just use a Ultra Fine Tip Sharpie (much cheaper than using an erasable option). If it’s in a place that will show in the finished product, I usually use this water-erasable marker (although be careful about applying heat to it afterwards).  For dark fabric, a white erasable pen is also useful.

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That’s a good start! There are plenty of other gadgets out there but there are the ones that I use all the time. You might have noticed that I missed fabric and sewing machines. Those two huge topics need their own posts so those will be coming in the next few week.s

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When Making Milk Is No Longer Your Vocation

I loved being able to nurse my babies. If you read through all my nursing blog posts, you’ll see that although nursing definitely wasn’t easy from the beginning for me, it was a huge part of my identity as a mother. I loved the incredible calming power of nursing for my children, particularly when they were older. Sometimes, nursing was all that I could do to help them cope with a changing, challenging world and it was enough.

When Ellie was nearing four years old, I was really ready for her to wean. I had a nursing 20-month old and I was ready to not be tandem nursing any more. With Marko, as he approached four, Ellie started telling him that he was going to stop nursing soon (because that’s what she had done). And inside, I was saying, “NO! You don’t have to stop! Why would you stop? You love nursing with a passion! Let’s keep going!” But, as he neared his fourth birthday, he started to get lazy with his latch, I had to often unlatch him and ask him to try again and by the beginning of December, it was clear that it was probably time for him to stop. I, however, wasn’t really ready for it when, one night while at dinner at Yiayia’s house, he announced that he didn’t want nursing anymore. I just thought, “yeah, yeah, you’ve said that before” (because he had). But that night, he asked for “one little scoop” (maybe just to prove to himself that I was still willing to say yes?), nursed for about a second, and was done. He had weaned himself just like that. And I was saying, “Wait! I didn’t get to enjoy our last time nursing together! I didn’t get to be all sentimental about the end of this chapter in my own mothering life! It’s just over?!?! That’s it?!” Yes, that was it. The next night, we laid down together on his little bed to cuddle for sleep and he didn’t even ask to nurse (nor has he asked since). Clearly, it was the the right time for him and I’m grateful that we trusted him to stop when he was ready.

And now, four months later, I’m getting ready to leave for my church’s women’s retreat this weekend. The last time I went to the retreat was in spring 2010, when I was four months pregnant with Ellie. Ever since then, I’ve had one (or two) nursing babies and it’s been impossible to get away (because we’ve never used bottles with our nursing kids). I’ve never been away from my children at night (or for longer than 6-7 hours at a stretch) except for the night we were gone from Ellie when Marko was born. Now that I’m not nursing any child, I can get away and it feels really unsettling, to be honest. They’ll be totally fine with Nik, of course. It’s just that for six year, two months, and five days, I couldn’t physically leave them and I loved being able to fill a need for them that no one else could. I didn’t mind not being able to leave them. Now, however, I’m settling into new roles, finding a new vocation, moving forward on my mother journey. It’s good, it’s right, and it’s sad, all at once.

For 1435 days for Marko and 1461 days for Ellie (which, although two years worth of those days overlapped, I still count them individually), “milk and love flowed from me to [them]”. I’m grateful for how those 2,896 days forever shaped who I am and what I will become.

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Post written and published in approximately 30 minutes – be proud of me for squashing my perfectionistic tendencies and just writing. 🙂
Posted in Ellie, Mark, nursing, parenting | 2 Comments