Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The One Where Everybody Finds Out

Remember that Friends episode when Joey finds out that Monica and Chandler are... uh...  NOT doing laundry together?  And then Monica and Chandler find out that Joey knows, but he's not allowed to tell anybody?  And then Rachel and Phoebe find out and tell Joey that they know, but he's not allowed to tell Monica and Chandler that they know?   And then somebody uses the sentence:  "Yes, but they don't know that we know that they know that we know?"

Welcome to our quilting bee.

You press your seams to the SIDE?

Not that any of us Lou Bee ladies are participating in any nefarious non-laundry activities (as far as I know...  I'm always the last to hear about these things...), but we HAVE had secret projects of late, and it's been relatively tough to keep them all quiet.

First, there was the house quilt.  At a recent Sew-In of the STLMQG, it was secretly decided that our friend Mary Claire needed a quilt.  She and her daughter would be selling their house and moving soon, and we wanted to make sure that wherever they'd land next, they'd always feel at home, so the ladies of the Meet-Me-in-Saint-Lou Bee (Lou Bee for short) stitched into action.  We quickly created a secret Flickr account [House Quilt for Mary Claire (Shhh...  It's a secret)] and set off in search of architectural inspiration.

I had already spotted this great print by Jenn Ski a few weeks prior on Etsy.  I loved the mid-mod feel of the house and e-mailed her for permission to use it as inspiration for my block.  She not only agreed, but said it sounded like a fun project and that she couldn't wait to see it. SUPER COOL and generous of her.  (I promptly went out and bought a few jelly rolls of her new line, Ten Little Things, as a show of gratitude...  If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to check it out. Very cute stuff).

Here's my (unintentionally wonky) version of her masterpiece:

My block.
I used some Anna Maria Horner and Denyse Schmidt as major players (two of MC's favorites), but also added some Kate Spain and a little Sweetwater for good measure.  The chimney's a tad crooked (Santa's gonna need some serious scoliosis to get down that puppy), but considering it was the first time I'd ever paper pieced anything, and had to make up the pattern myself, I'm pretty happy with the results.

Check out the rest of our "neighborhood," courtesy of the talented Lou Bee ladies.

Juli Ann's block (happylifedesigns):

Juli Ann's block.
Wish you could see this block in person.  It is pristinely pieced.  Juli Ann is our resident artist/perfectionist.  Those Ruby roof shingles line up perfectly.  She even quilted and bound the final product despite a herniated disc in her neck!  (To quote Joey Tribbiani:  "Is this friendship? I think sooooo-oh!")

Jessica's block (jessimama):

Jessica's block.

I love this block!  Jessica says she was going for a "candy house in the woods" vibe, but I'm thinking ski chalet myself.  Makes me want to curl up next to the fire with a plate full of microwave s'mores.  (I grew up in the city and like to save my carbon for nanotubes, not marshmallows).  Add a jaunty little zig-zag of smoke from the chimney?  Perfection!

Cara's block (me? a mom?):

Cara's block.

So citrusy and fun.  Notice the little touches of cherished Heather Ross?  Priceless.

Laura's block (x.o. madewithlove):

Laura's block.

Both Laura's family and Mary Claire's are big fans of the Kung Fu Panda movies, so Laura whipped up her own Kung Fu palace for MC's quilt.  Love how the little "eyelashes" (for lack of a better term) curl up at the corners.  Sk'doosh!

Jamie's block (Sunflower Seeds):

Jamie's the youngest in our little circle of friends, and a brand-new "Hexy-Mama" to Baby Jared, one of our adorable "auxiliary members" who lunch with us on occasion.  Here she shared a few of her precious hexies, and a beloved kitty cat (or two):  the one you see appliqued here, and the one whose dander gave me a last-minute panic attack when I realized MC was deathly allergic to cats! "To Mary Claire, from your dear friends:  A quilt, and an EpiPen."  Thankfully, Juli Ann graciously washed the quilt when it was all finished, and everyone is breathing easier.

Kristy's blocks (St. Louis Folk Victorian):

Kristy's block (1 of 2).
Kristy, our president and founder, donated not one but TWO blocks toward the cause.  The first, a wee cottage, a study in "seeds."  The second, a double-decker cutie with Marigold Circles from Metro Living on each level. (Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the second, but you should check it out on the finished product below).  Kristy was pinch-hitting for our good friend Grace, who's had a pretty busy time of things lately.  Thanks to Kristy, she got to be a special part of our gift, too.  Miss you Miss Grace.  Hope to see you soon.  

In addition to donating a house block, it was also my job to piece the quilt front and back, and to try to tie our individual blocks together with a center square of some kind.  After kicking around a few different ideas, I finally got inspired by the work of tattoo artist Tiffany Harvey.  (Considering I won't even write a phone number on my hand, this was complete happenstance).  I had come across Tiffany's word art on Flickr using the search term "hearts and names" (I'm nothing if not original).  After paging through 20-30 of her individual designs and sketching some rough rough drafts, I finally got to this:

Original sketch for center block.

Which eventually turned into this:

Center block applique pieces, ready to fuse.

And finally resulted in this:

Center block for MC's house quilt.

Put it all together, and you have our Meet-Me-in-Saint-Lou Bee neighborhood quilt:

Pieced top for MC's house quilt.

With the front finished, it was time to tackle the back.  I had originally planned an entire back in Lou Lou Thi Summer Totem in grapefruit.  When the fabric arrived, I was so smitten by the beautiful pattern that I couldn't bring myself to haphazardly join two pieces together.  I decided to match up the pattern by overlapping the repeats and joining them together for a seamless transition.  (Well, nearly seamless...  There was one spot that was a little off...):


Unfortunately, when you join panels this way, your seam allowance becomes this large, unwieldy, asymmetric chunk of fabric.  When I went to trim it down, I measured it, and measured it again, taking care to fold the fabric I wanted to keep off and to the left, and the chunk I wanted to lose off and to the right.  Somehow-- and I'm still not clear on how this happened-- one swipe of the rotary blade hacked off 18 inches of perfectly joined backing.  (?!?)  I nearly threw up.  All of this on the day I was scheduled to pass everything off to Juli Ann for quilting.  We cancelled our rendezvous, and I took the backing up to my local quilt store, the Quilted Garden, to confer with Jenice, our resident expert.  As I'm standing at the counter discussing what to do next, WHO of ALL people walks in the door but Mary Claire, the intended giftee!  Jenice's eyes nearly bugged out of her head as she deftly swept the backing off the glass and back behind the counter.

Now, I love Mary Claire.  I do.  She's smart, funny, and I could talk to her for days (and have, actually, on several occasions).  But that afternoon, I really needed to get back to my machine.  Alas, they use only see-through bags at Jenice's shop, and there was NO WAY for us to sneak five+ yards of LouLouThi-- which, incidentally, she doesn't sell in her shop-- past Mary Claire's keenly-tuned AMH radar.  Miraculously, Jenice somehow conjoured an opaque, blue bag out of the ether and sent me on my way.  

There were a few other backing mishaps along the way (including a puddle of unknown liquid on my kitchen floor), but after pulling some fabrics from the stash, and a quick trip through the washer, I eventually managed to finish it up:

Salvaged back of MC's quilt.

I pieced together a quick, coordinating binding and set off to meet Juli Ann at our rendezvous point (the local JoAnn's parking lot...  We're nothing if not original).  :)

All this time, as the Lou Bee gals had been planning and plotting for Mary Claire, another surprise was brewing in the wings.  Our friend Laura, of the Kung Fu block above, is expecting her third little one this month.  We were excited to stitch up some handmade goodies for her, but with all of the preparation underway for MC's surprise in June, were kind of leaning toward our July meeting to celebrate.  We set up a second secret Flickr account for Laura's shower, only to have Mary Claire suggest that June might be better, lest Laura go into labor early and we miss our chance.  (!?!)  SO...  Laura knew we were surprising Mary Claire at the June meeting.  Mary Claire knew we were surprising Laura at the June meeting.  And the rest of us knew that unless the June meeting arrived quickly, one of us was surely going to post the right pic to the wrong group and we'd blow the whole thing!

In the midst of all the craziness, I did manage to piece together a quilted growth chart similar to one I spotted on Craft Gossip not long ago.   Laura's signature colors are aqua and grey, so I pulled a load from my stash and fired up the rotary cutter.

Fabrics pulled for Laura's growth chart.
Little bits to get me started.

Straight-line quilting serves a purpose, every vertical inch for easy measuring.

Mama Laura and Baby Bird.

The final dimensions of the growth chart are 12" wide by 72" tall.  The blocks along the column should finish at 1" square so that you can use the horizontal quilting lines to easily measure baby's height and then enscript/embroider the data at each milestone.  I guess once baby hits 6-foot-1, he's on his own!  :)                                       

The day of our June meeting finally arrived, and I'm happy to report that Laura was surprised, Mary Claire was floored, and the rest of us were out-of-our-mind relieved that we could finally post a non-private photo to Flickr again because there were NO. MORE. SECRETS!

At least, for now.  ;)

How you doin'?


  1. I absolutely love your mid-century modern house block! It's lovely. And that center block that you made- awesome! The best quilts have the best stories behind them! Your effort certainly paid off. That quilt is just wonderful!

  2. WOW! You have been busy. Love the growth chart!

  3. LYNNE!!!!!! You have me in stitches. If I could "like" this post, I would do so a million times over. I'm just glad "everything" is out in the open now...whew!!!

  4. One of favorite "Friends" episode. I'm with Kristy - loved your story. And really, really love all your house blocks. Oh and the growth chart - really love that too. I want to read this post again and again. Thanks for sharing!!

  5. I am totally printing this post out for my baby book! I love you so much Lynne!
    Thank you for leaving out the part about how I cried and cried, and well, cried over this quilt. It is quite possibility the most thoughtful thing I've ever received and crap, I'm gonna cry just talking about it!
    Thank you Lou Bee ladies - I'm so thankful to have such dear and thoughtful friends!

  6. Wow, those are two great stories! I found your post from a link from splendorfalls. Adore your growth chart, too!

  7. I found myself reading your post for a second time this evening . You have a real knack for storytelling, Lynne. And those house blocks! So special; so unique.

  8. Thanks so much for posting the "back story" of Mary Claire and Elsie's quilt. It is a treasure and I hope the story is read over and over again for decades. The "sisterhood" of quilting is as old as the first stitcher and her friends. Probably a cave mama and her cousins putting together squirrel hides or something! We've come a
    long way! A big HUG for all of you!

  9. What wonderful gifts for Mary Claire and Laura! I saw the house quilt reveal and wondered about the story behind it, thank you for sharing! She is staying near STL when she moves, I hope!

  10. Wow!!! Such wonderful projects. I LOVE the gray fabric with the little aqua birds. super cute!

  11. super reading from mary claires blog and im happy to see she is so well taken care of!!

  12. Such a fantastic house block, names block, backing & the quilt? Just WOW!!!
    I love the baby chart, portable & gorgeous.
    Look forward to shots of the quilted quilt.
    London, UK