Friday, November 20, 2015

Catching Up

I'm back...I don't know why it's so hard for me to post to this blog on a regular basis, but I guess it's just part procrastination and part my feeling that I don't have a lot of interesting things to say.  In any case, I do owe you a few photos of quilts past and present.

First, I teased you about a commission I was working on a few months ago and I owe you pictures.  My niece was retiring from the Army this past May and I was asked to make a quilt commemorating her and her husband's service (he retired at the end of 2013).  They were both in a very special unit, called the Nightstalkers.  Michael was a Blackhawk pilot and Sandra served with the support team.  I'm not fluent in military speak, so if I've botched that, I apologize.  But, if you want to know more about the 160th, you should Google it.  Then, you'll know why I'm so proud of both of them and why this quilt had to be right.

I had in mind a wall-hanging/art quilt, but Sandra wanted something for their king-size bed.  Yikes!  I spent weeks worrying and thinking and, yes, procrastinating, trying to come up with a design.  She had sent me pictures of several quilts she liked, along with some of their patches and other items, but the one photo that I couldn't get out of my mind was a silhouette of a helicopter against a sunset sky with the ocean below.  I knew I had to have something like that somewhere in this quilt, but I was still struggling as to how to incorporate it.

 So, I did a smart thing.  I went to visit my friend, Linda, who also happens to be a terrific quilter, as well as the owner of a quilt shop.  Just showing her all the items and pictures and explaining a bit about who Michael and Sandra were and how special their service had been was the catalyst I needed to get my brain unstuck.

I showed Linda the picture of the helicopter against that sky and told her I had to make it part of the quilt.  She said something that just made everything else fall into place.  Her words were something to the effect that, no matter where I put it on the quilt, the helicopter/sky would be the focal point and what your eye would go to first.

It made so much sense.  This would be a giant art quilt.  The helicopter would be the center and the patches and other items would be secondary.  Linda also gave me an idea as to how to size this project.  I would make it so that the quilt covered from the bottom of the pillows to the edge of the mattress at the foot of the bed and it would hang over on the sides.  It ended up being 72" long by 108" wide.

I like the idea of using strips of fabric in varying widths, so the background was made of 1 1/2" (finished) strips of blues, aquas, oranges, yellows, and purples.  I decided to stabilize it with a layer of interfacing so the strips didn't end up being giant smiley-faces and would remain straight.  Then, I cut tons of strips and began laying it out in my studio floor.  That was the only place that would handle the width.  I put it together in sections the width of the interfacing.  I drew lines across the interfacing to help me keep the strips straight and I stitched the strips together and stitched them to the interfacing, one row at a time. 

It was a BIG job, but it worked out well.  I found a photo of a Blackhawk helicopter online and used that as my guide for the shape of the silhouette.  I couldn't use the original photo that had been my inspiration, as it was too small and indistinct.  But, I think I captured the feeling.

The hardest part was depicting the blades of the helicopter in motion, as they don't really show up in a photo.  I used black tulle and, with a lot of help from my husband, who designed tools for aircraft maintenance in his former life, I think I got the shape of the whirling blades.

Enough talking--here's the photos of the finished product.


It didn't have a name--another thing I'd thought long and hard about.  Usually, by the time I'm almost finished with a piece, the name has come to me, but not this time.   Then, I got another e-mail from Sandra and she included a photo of an item  given to Michael at his retirement.  It had a verse from the Bible that had the quote, "Here am I, send me".  It was perfect.  Our volunteer military doesn't question--they're ready to serve whenever and wherever needed. 

I got it finished and shipped in time for Sandra's retirement ceremony and I held my breath because they had not seen it until it was presented at the ceremony.  Sandra didn't want to know what it would look like and it was a total surprise for Michael, so I was a bit nervous about whether they would like it.

They did.

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