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(I’m still sick. I don’t know what hurts more my throat or my chest. I’ve decided to ignore it. I’m sure that will work …)

photo (9)I’m thrilled to announce that I (finally) finished my first quilt! I first mentioned this quilt to you in mid Feb so it’s been awhile. The majority of it was completed months back but the hand sewing of the binding (the edge of the quilt) took more time than I expected mostly because I had to keep it away from any dogs that would prefer they be on my lap vs. having me concentrate on sewing.

My mom has been hard core quilting for about a year now. She’s REALLY good at it. I’m lucky enough to own two of her pieces. She made me a tiny quilted center for my dining room table and a HUGE and beautiful quilt for my bed. That one isn’t even the biggest she has made. That amazes me. I can’t image (27)even imagine making any quilt bigger (or with so many more pieces) than the lap throw that I did!

When I showed my mom a picture on Pinterest of a quilt I liked she decided I should make it. At first glance it seemed pretty easy, for a quilt, so a perfect project for a novice quilter. There wasn’t really a pattern but the overall look was a tree bark that had a heart and initials “carved” into it. Of course it was a no brainer that I would change the initials to “Riggins.” (The original Pinterest poster now makes these on request. You can purchase at her Etsy store. Although I think it is kinda weird to have a stranger make something so personal for you it isn’t a bad price. You’d have to pay me closer to what Demi Moore’s character was offered in Indecent Proposal to make this again.) A trip to JoAnns yielded the perfect fabric including material for the back/binding that had brown leaves all over it. (We didn’t purchase enough and my mom was nice enough to go back and get more so I’d have enough strips to make the binding.)

image (11)The hardest part (and when I say hard I mean the part that most tested my patience) of quilting is the need for PERFECTION. Everything has to be perfect. The Wendy attitude of, “good enough” does not work. My mom helped cut and pin everything … thank goodness. She sewed on the heart to the main piece of fabric but after that refused to sew another thing despite my, sometimes constant, begging and whining. According to her I needed to be able to say that I made the quilt myself. So there you go! I can officially say that!

If you choose to make this quilt, and why wouldn’t you it’s adorable, I suggest making the bark pattern fatter. Meaning more space between stitches. It seemed like such a good idea to put them close together for more texture when I was zipping through the first few but about 1/3 of the way in I was done. By then it was too late. I couldn’t go from skinny image (10)to fat part way through my quilt! I had to grit my teeth and power through. (There was no pattern for the “bark.” My mom and I started to draw a pattern on with pencil until she looked at me and said, “You can just do this right? We don’t need to draw this on.” I guess so …) I’m pretty proud of the bark pattern. When I was nearly finished my Dad, clueless at what was happening, came in and said it looked like a tree. GREAT! PERFECT! GOAL ACHIEVED!

During this process I was reminded of something I’ve always known. If someone makes something for you (a quilt, afghan, needlepoint, etc.) they REALLY LOVE YOU. They have spent their time, money, energy, tears, and sometimes (in my case) blood to hand make something, a one of a kind something, especially for you. Cherish it. It’s special. I choose very carefully who I hand make presents for. I have to feel like they will appreciate it and the effort it took me. Personally I feel that a homemade gift is far superior to anything you can purchase at a store.

Now I can move on to my next project. I’m cross stitching a sampler as a gift. I realized, when describing it to friends, that many people don’t know what a “sampler” is. To be honest how I’m using the word and what it really describes is a bit different. Long ago, pre-patterns, women who were good at needlepoint would keep a “sampler” of their work. Anytime they invented a new stitch it would be added for reference. These samplers are a mix of different types of threads and needlepoint styles. They would often include using the stitches in an alphabet along with basic patterns and numbers. These were passed down in families and eventually seen as art and framed and hung in homes and museums. A bit later a “sampler” became a learning tool for young girls. In school needlework was an important subject and each girls “sampler” showed off what she had learned. These also often contained the alphabet along with quotes, sayings, etc. Apparently you could judge a girls status based on her sampler, skill (financial ability to get lessons), and quality of fabric and thread. Laura from Little House on the Prairie most likely had a sampler.

photo (5)Today when I say sampler I am referring to a needlework pattern that contains the alphabet and sometimes numbers (Although I’d consider a “Home Sweet Home,” “Home established …”, or other such sayings samplers as well). My mom made the sampler that hangs in my entry way right now. This is its third house/apartment it has been hung up in and I love it. A handmade sampler, to me, is a symbol of a loving and happy home.

There are patterns for very simple samplers. Much like those girls on the prairie it’s a great place to start if you want to get into needlepoint.