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Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Last Christmas Gift

Once again, I missed the Off-the-Wall Friday blog roll.  In fact, I've missed a lot this week because I have had my head down trying to finish a quilt I undertook for a friend, and to spice things up a little, I had a liver biopsy which sort of threw me off a little.

Last year at this time, my friend Stephanie Ely was spending her last days in hospice.  Stephanie fought pancreatic cancer for a little over two years.  She died on December 26 (even though the Obit. got the date wrong...it was Monday, Dec. 26) with her parents, two sons, and husband at her side.

I met Stephanie through the Noble Circle Project.  She was an extremely artistic soul, and had once been a photo journalist for Stars and Stripes as well as for the St. Petersburg Times and the Orlando Sentinel.  She asked me if I would teach her how to art quilt....and I said sure...but I never got the chance for just 9 months after I met her, Stephanie succumbed the disease.

Shortly later, her husband Rob asked our little group if we knew anyone who quilted.... I said yes...what did he need? Well, their son Travis was graduating from the Coast Guard Academy and Stephanie (Stevie to those who knew her well) had purchased some fabric intending to make Travis a quilt her other son Will, who is my daughter's age, a tied fleece blanket from the college he was going to.  So...I undertook the task.

I had no idea how much angst this quilt was going to cause me.  First, the panels (the two light houses and the clipper ships) were not printed straight...so I had to cover up the warble with trim.  Then, I decided I really needed to use the Coast Guard Emblem...no problem! I thought I have two machine which do embroidery, one a Janome 300e and the embroidery module for the Bernina 440.  Except for one thing....I'm not terribly proficient at it since I rarely use them.  When I tried to use the Janome, the machine told me it was too big for the hoop.  Since the Bernina hoops I had were the same size, I had to borrow a friend's hoop who had the Mega Hoop.  I chickened out and went over to her house to do it on her machine.  When we first tried it, I noticed that the background was stitching out in ....GREEN.  Well, this wasn't what was on the photo, and so I had to do it again.

I used 4 paper pieced mariner's compass stars to fill out part of the pattern...not terribly well done as I don't usually do paper piecing.....and I have terrific trouble with my hands.  But...I got them done.  I decided to spell out Travis' name in marine signal flags...and I had to figure out how I was going to do those little flags with the changes....but they turned out pretty well.  The other images were of Stephanie, Rob and Stephanie, and the Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock which was Travis' training vessel.  All well and good. Top was pieced.

I sandwiched it and quilted it.....only.....two problems.  My hands are so numb that my quilting wasn't very good.  On top of it, I have a Bernina 440 whose tension seems to be demonic. In fact, I am fairly certain it is a lemon. After struggling and quilting the whole thing, including a rope border...I looked at it...and decided I had to rip the whole thing out as it was terrible...both from the bad tension and from my icky hand situation.
So...for the last week and a half, I have been practicing free-motion quilting feathers....and spend this last week quilting it. I quilted it on my cheap little Janome...a $500 machine instead of my $2,800 Bernina...and although I didn't have problems with the tension on the Janome, I did have a problem with the needle falling out as I wasn't able to finger tightening it tight enough given the numbness of my hands.  I took this photo before blocking it...which it needed because of the distortion from ripping out all the quilting and re-quilting.

 I finished the quilt tonight...So tomorrow, I will put on the label and a hanging sleeve so that Rob and Will can pick it up on the way to visit Travis in Michigan.

 It isn't the best of jobs...but it is done.  I'm just hoping that no one looks too carefully at the quilting...or the mariner's stars....I wanted to do this for Stephanie and for Travis.  I hope that it will somehow help them that Stephanie's wishes for Christmas gifts are finally being realized on this anniversary of her death...which was unfortunately at a time which is usually happy for most families.

This is Rob and Stephanie in May, 2011 on board the Hollyhock.
The Hollyhock at the Blue Water Bridge, Port Huron, MI.

Stephanie James Ely, 1953-2011.

So, Steph, sorry it took me a while..and it isn't quite what I used to be able to do....but I'm glad I at least got the chance to quilt with you....even if you weren't here physically.

Nina-Marie re-opened the Off-the-Wall-Fridays so I could get this in as this stupid computer took too long to open for me to write it and post before midnight.  So...link up for other creative posts here.  

5 comments:

Nina Marie said...

what a post and a testament to you friend! So sorry for the heart break but the quilt is lovely! Reopened OTW just so you could share!! Hugs!

Kathy said...

Truly a gift from the heart...those never require perfection, only love. A wonderful gift for her family!

Sunita said...

You are an amazing quilter and an even more awesome friend! I loved this post, Lisa.

MulticoloredPieces said...

Hi, Lisa. What a lovely quilt and thoughtful gesture. Your blog touched me as an elderly family member is struggling with pancreatic cancer.

Thanks so much for commenting on my blog and I enjoyed visiting your blog. I hope your biopsy went well. May you have a happy holiday season with your family.

best, nadia

Lisa Quintana said...

Thanks, Nina-Marie, Kathy and Sunita. Nadia, I'm sorry that your family is going through all this. I had a quilting friend in Connecticut who lived at least 8 years with pancreatic cancer, and yet I had another older friend who died two and a half weeks after the diagnosis.

Cancer, in any form, just sucks!