Friday, May 21, 2010

A Frugal Quilter's Dream

One of the benefits to volunteering at the food bank here in my little home town is the thrift store right next door. I usually only get to run in with a donation while my kids wait in the car, or quickly scan the kitchen section for canning jars, but on Thursdays when I have a break in my food bank work, and while I have a babysitter at home, I enjoy a leisurely browse through the fabric and bedding bins, looking for scraps of 100% cotton fabrics or vintage sheets. I also scan the men's and women's button up shirt racks for treasures.

I used to say that if a scrap of fabric ever made it into my house, it wouldn't emerge unless it had been made into something useful, a quilt, apron, potholder, rag rug, etc. Now the same goes for men's shirts. I may even start scanning my husband's closets for pretty patterns.
I'm in the process of making two more scrappy log cabin quilts for my other two boys who share a bedroom. Their quilts will be red, blues, creams, yellows and some bear/nautical prints. Today I found this gorgeous Old Navy men's shirt with red white and blue stripes with ships' flags. I was so excited. The good thing about this shirt is it's a 2XL, so that means almost 2 yards of fabric for my quilting obsession.

I bought 4 men's shirts, one was 2XL, two of them were large size, long sleeved and the other was a large, short sleeve. Once I cut them up, I'll get about 5 yards of fabric, for a whopping, $2.40. If I had shopped at my local quilting shop, (which I admit to doing way too often...) I would have paid about $50 for the same amount of fabric.

Then later, my babysitter brought me a trash bag full of fabric, while most of it was fleece, knits and polyesters, I did find some scraps of solid 100% cotton percales. One can never have too many solids. I've washed them all, hung them on my drying rack and later I'll be cutting the up the shirts to add to my scrap bins.

Bonnie Hunter is my quilt hero, and you can find out why I'm so obsessed with men's shirts over at her website,

Enjoy the eye candy!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Military Spouse

In honor of today being Military Spouse appreciation day, I'm writing to tell you how I came to be a military spouse.

Nearly 20 years ago, my husband, myself and our son were living in a little duplex near Camel's Back Park in Boise. Jut down the street from the trendy, hip neighborhood of Hyde Park. We hobnobbed with bicycle touring, and kayaking college students. I worked at a family owned sporting goods store running their embroidery machine in the sweatshop basement. I created beautiful cheer leading outfits, band uniforms and Letterman jackets.

Bear was a college student finishing up his teaching degree and had gotten frustrated with the liberalness of the department and had left the university.

After much prayer and research, we decided that it would be a good life with many benefits to join the armed forces in some manner. His first choice was the Air Force, be Bear is slightly colorblind and didn't make their cut off criteria.

He was a music major in college, so he tried out for the 35th Army band. He was accepted and soon left for Basic Training at Fort Sill, OK. I stayed in our apartment for a while but soon discovered that juggling a toddler in day care, living expenses and trying to get back and forth to work with less than reliable transportation wasn't all it was cut out to be.

I quit my sweatshop job and moved all our things into a storage unit and moved in with my Mother-in-Law, and step-father-in-law. After a few months, I got a job waitressing in a small Ma and Pa restaurant in the little town of Payette, Idaho.

After Bear was finished with basic training, we decided that going full time Army was probably a better situation for us than just reserve days on the weekends. While Bear was in AIT, training to be a legal specialist and then later a Chaplain Assistant, we decided that Gadget-boy and I would get along better with my family during that extended training situation. My father came to Idaho and helped move all our things to Utah.

I got a job at a greenhouse-nursery selling, watering and caring for plants. I loved working there, loved tending the little seedlings and watching them grow into flourishing flowers. Memorial Day weekend, my husband had a four-day pass and came home to visit us, and my employer would not give me anytime off to go away with him. He said if you go, then you don't come back. That was fine with me and we left. We spent a wonderful weekend in West Yellowstone at my parent's time share condo.

Bear returned to AIT and we returned to my parent's home. In August, Bear had new orders to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and we prepared to move out things once a gain. The 22nd of August we flew to Kansas, slept on the floor at the home of Bear's NCOIC. The next day we found an apartment and bought a car.

We made many friends at Fort Leavenworth, many of which I still count as my very best friends today. That post shaped the military wife that I am today. Fort Leavenworth is mainly an officer/TRADOC )training and doctrine) post. There were two officer courses there back in the 90's. CGSC and CAS3. CGSC was a longer assignment and many of the officer's wives came along for the 10-11 month stay. I attended PWOC with the other military wives and absorbed their grace and compassion. Many images of lovely ladies floods my mind as I write this, Sandra, Wendy, Ann, Daphnee, Melinda, Denise, (love you still) and Donna, ( I will miss you always.)

The job of a military spouse is not an easy one. The ladies who followed their officer husbands to CGSC came along thinking that it would be a respite from other activities and would find time to spend with their husbands. It was not always so. Many times they were the ones taking their children to camp, softball games while their spouse was at home studying, writing papers to further their career.

As I have grown as a military spouse, I'm inclined to say that it is the hardest job in the world. Though, that would probably be on overstatement, it's certainly one of the most difficult. I have stood by a young wife, supporting her as she spoke one final goodbye to her sweetheart as his casket was lowered into the ground. I have had other wives support me through labor pains when my husband could not be there.

Military wives are passionate. We learn to make friends fast, and for the most part, they are true friends. Life is too short to be fickle, conniving, and vicious back-stabbers; contrary to Hollywood's portrayal. We've helped unpack boxes with the new neighbor, and we've gladly accepted the leftovers from our old friends when they PCS to another duty station.

As my life as a military spouse has progressed, sometimes regular Army, sometimes reserve, sometimes as a civilian family longing to be back in full time, I will forever be blessed by the friendships created and nourished with other military spouses along the way.

I can't send each of you a bouquet of flowers, but I can share some of the beauty from my backyard. God bless you military spouses. You are definitely appreciated!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My oldest UFO finished!

A dear friend of the family asked me to handquilt a quilt for her too many years ago to count. I can't remember who did the piecing, some relative of hers. I've had it on my GraceFrame hand quilting frame for a long time.

I have had 5 more children since then, moved five times and carefully packed it along each time.

I was determined to start finishing things while Bear is gone on this deployment. This was the UFO that gave me the most grief and added stress to my life. The guilt associated with having this quilt for so long stifled my creativity and nagged at the back of my procrastinating brain.

It's done!! I pulled it off the frame a few weeks ago and finished hand sewing the binding on yesterday. I washed and dried it, and took a picture for my archives. I will attach a label before I send it off to my friend, if she still counts me as one.

Even though a twin size quilt only weighs a few pounds, I feel like a TON has been lifted off my shoulders!

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