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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Long Before Loading...

I'm not sure that I'm unique...I'm just me. I don't sew, I don't piece, I don't design, I don't make blocks and I don't own a Color Wheel. What my wife let's me use is her longarm. Okay that might be unique...she let's me. No, honest, really...I know I was surprised as well. And we all know to me it is just another power tool. 

So, with the help of PantoVision attached to her 22" Innova on a 12' Table I learned how to use the longarm to apply quilting patterns to the 'sandwich.' Turns out I really like it. I've lost count of how many over the last year and a half, but more than a hundred. So I've learned a few things along the way that I would like to share with those of you that do make blocks, that do design, that do piece, can actually sew and know how the concept of a Color Wheel works. Which based on my experience professional sports teams don't know either or like me, don't care. Me I know what I like to look at, it may or may not fit into some acceptable Color Theory...but fitting in isn't a priority for me. I don't care what color your quilt is. I'm going to do what I strive to do whether you are making a donation to the Quilts of Valor, we have bartered your quilt for a quilt top and back appropriate for a Quilt of Valor or you have agreed to trade my labor time and thread for material we can use for Quilts of Valor based on a price per square inch...My goal is to compliment your quilt. That is my goal for every quilt I do whether a volunteer quilt for Quilts of Valor, Project Linus or some other organization we have chosen to assist with our equipment, experience and time. But I need your help before it gets loaded on our frame. Long Before Loading. 

The piecer needs to have a concept of square. If the blocks are square that develops a really good foundation for a square quilt. By square I mean it in it's simplest form. The distance from one corner of the top to the other corner is the same and the distance from one corner to the other on the bottom is the same as the top. It helps too if the distance from one corner on the left side to the other corner on the left side is the same and the right side as well. Please, measure your tops accurately and record them for the longarmer. That goes for the back as well, square and no less than four inches larger than the top. If you choose to supply your own batting it to should be the same size as the back. You have heard me mention there are piecers that I really like to longarm for...they do this...consistently. 

Preparing a quilt for longarming includes pressing. Pressing the seams as flat as possible on the top and if the back is pieced those seams as well. Apparently you should press vertically as opposed to horizontally. It  has something to do with stretching the fabric. Good luck with that. If I had a preference the back seam would be 1/2" pressed open. Most of those that know me prepare their backs this way. Even if you have to ship the top and back it should be pressed. It saves time even if it has to be gone over it with an iron before it is loaded. If you are paying a longarmer many times pressing is an additional yourself some money. I have noticed many longarmers charge for just about everything in addition to the longarming. $10 - $15 seems to be pretty standard. Pressing, squaring a back, fixing a seam, trimming etc. I've even seen some of these chores listed at $25 an hour. Not bad job if you can get it. Keep the money in your pocket. Think about it...what might take you 30 minutes might take someone else an hour. 

I want to pass this on..."quilting issues such as puckering, weak seams/holes, wavy borders, pleats etc. will not go away with the quilting, they may be exaggerated." As much as I'd like to take credit for how nice a quilt looks when it is done, I can't. Nor can I take credit for puckering, pleats, ripped seams, wavy borders or anything else. Of course I want every quilt to be perfect. I'm also realistic. But I know this to be true. When I'm done longarming and someone says, "What a beautiful quilt." It is that way because Long Before Loading someone was doing it right. And like anything else in life...there is a wrong way and a right way. 

Thought I'd pass this along...Elaine said something about it being relevant. Whatever...

Quilt till you wilt...we do. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Quilt of Valor Presentation

The following is the verbiage that I currently use when I present a quilt. Elaine's is basically the same except when it is a local presentation and the QOV was made by Tidewater Quilters' Guild Members there is a reference to them. After Awarding the QOV I always make an effort to discuss the quilt and the information on the label with the recipient. I also include any journals, cards or notes the piecer(s) want included. There will also be a copy of this included with the has been my experience they haven't heard a word I've said.
This is not mine, it has developed from the input of guild members, quilters, Elaine, the experiences I have encountered on the Quilt of Valor journey and from the emotion that I carry with me as a Vietnam Veteran. The last two words are for all that I Award...for many like me they are being heard for the first time.

I am ask, often, Why do you QOV? It is a simple answer...Because I can.


The Quilts of Valor Foundation is a national organization founded in 2003 by “Blue Star” mom Catherine Roberts.  With a son deployed in Iraq, a ‘Gunner’ sitting atop a Humvee she felt “only ten seconds away from panic.” She had this vision of a post deployed warrior struggling with his war demons at 2 in the morning. She saw him sitting on the side of his bed wrapped in a quilt. The quilt not only comforted him but warded off the demons. Thus the QOVF was founded. The Quilts of Valor Foundation’s mission is to cover ALL combat service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.  Since its founding, Quilts of Valor has awarded over 95,000 quilts to veterans of military actions, conflicts and wars, including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Beirut, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Each Quilt of Valor is formed by loving hands joining bits of fabric together one piece at a time.  A QOV may be fashioned by only one or two individuals or through the combined efforts of many women and men of all skill levels.  Quilters often join together in sewing bees to create these quilts.  As we quilt, we talk about our families and friends and how grateful we are of those that will be receiving what we call our “quilty” hug.  Now, through this quilt, you will become part of our quilting family.

We believe that as we sew the love, caring and gratitude flows from our hearts and through our hands into the developing quilt. We all, as quilters, want you to know that through our quilts you will be forever in our hearts. 

And so, on behalf of the Quilts of Valor Foundation and a grateful Nation, with our deepest appreciation, thank you for your service to our country with this Quilt of Valor Award.  Welcome Home…

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Quilts of Valor Region 8 Retreat

First I have to apologize, and maybe, just maybe...not likely, I'll have to eat my words. I apologize to any other group that hosts a retreat that I will attend in the future...Quilts of Valor's Region 8 has set the bar so high I don't even know if they can reach it again. I say that with all do respect but this was my, well our, first retreat. For me it is kind of like a Filet Mignon. The first one is the best cut of beef you've ever had, melt in your mouth reward for being alive. From then on they are a really good steak dinner.

We can't say it was a week without surprises...well our surprises started on Tuesday at the Guild Meeting.

When I went out to the car to get something I was greeted with a broken window...and where you see the pair of glasses is where Elaine had put her purse...yep, broad daylight. Please believe me when I say it took some serious effort to see the very dark colored purse, lying on the floor behind the driver's seat through the heavily tinted window glass on a very cloudy overcast and yep, rainy day.

All is well. Every thing has been replaced or is on it's way. She only carries one credit card, cancelled within minutes, no cash, and she doesn't have an ATM Card. Fraud alerts put on all credit reporting agencies, new driver's license in the mail as well as SS, medical and other miscellaneous cards. I guess the toughest loss was her phone with the pictures of the grand kids. We thought the phone would be the most expensive item to replace...well we don't get paid to think. Our deductible on the phone was only $99...the window was $156 and the key to the car...well the estimate came in at $300... I haven't replaced that yet. I had my key reprogrammed and I'm thinking one key. But then I'd hate to loose that key. If by chance I do ever run across the low life's that stole her purse I'll be testifying before a jury why I was in fear for my life and the lives of others.

So Tuesday passed, Wednesday was spent getting things back in order and early Thursday morning we headed out for Georgia. We had a good trip, hit some snow between Emporia, VA and Durham, NC but other than that pretty uneventful. We pulled into the Retreat site around 3 PM. The retreat was held at a Baptist Conference Center...huge facility but a really good location for what we would be doing. I will admit to being shocked though...although the rooms were clean and neat they lacked a few essentials. Like a microwave, refrigerator and HELLO...a TV. Who builds a facility and don't put televisions in the room. Apparently Baptist. I guess they haven't heard of that Sunday Sport that goes on this time of year called the NFL Playoffs.
Thank goodness for laptops. I can only guess the facility is to accommodate prayer and meditation. Well that and quilting...because I'm here to tell you there was a lot of that going on...the quilting that is.

I got to get started early Friday Morning

There were quilter's everywhere...dead center is Elaine with one of the Singer Featherweights...Sugar Ray. 

If there was a room...there were quilters

Another longarmer...she was the work horse for the week end.

Yet another room full of quilters, quilters everywhere

and did I mention snacks and food everywhere as well. I think it was a five pound trip...I'm not getting on a scale until February

another room and another group of quilters
I don't know what the official quilt top and completed quilt count was by the end of Sunday, we left around 11 AM and there was still a couple of hours of sewing left. I'm gonna guess they were on the edge of 100 tops. I know I saw at least 15 finished. I brought home nine to quilt, ten counting one Elaine finished. So it was indeed a week end of quilting. 

We had the opportunity to meet quite a few people that we had an email and phone relationship with and each was a compliment to our lives. Each and every one add to what we love to do as we strive to do our part for the Quilts of Valor Foundation. I am overjoyed that Elaine has decided to become a State Coordinator for Virginia and we will now share in those duties. There are three really lucky recipients in her decision, Quilts of Valor, the Commonwealth of Virginia and again me. I've lost count how many times she has brought a fulfillment to my life and this is just another that goes on the long list. 

So Friday, Saturday and the morning of Sunday was filled with quilting, socializing, quilting, eating, socializing, quilting and some more eating. It was a tough week end but someone has to do it. It was so tough that we had to stop in Gastonia, GA to spend the night. Well I guess I could have driven straight home, NOT. 

As it turns out several hours from the retreat site, on our way home is this store called Mary Jo's. I guess if you're into fabric, like quilter's are, this is a must visit. Well I'm here to tell you they got some fabric. As you can see we were there before the doors opened and I must admit, Elaine was quite pleased. 

This is one happy fabric shopping, quilt making, stash master standing at the doorway of a fabric heaven
You can see why we had to spend the night Sunday...Closed...but this was bright and early Monday. Nobody was beating her in. 

and she went right to work

to say they have some fabric is an understatement

not to mention notions, patterns, machines and more fabric

She had a great time...she was a happy camper. And we all know when Elaine is happy, Les is ecstatic. It was a good day. The drive home was a little harder on the Outback than the drive to the retreat, I'm thinking the extra weight was a big factor. But on Monday afternoon around 4 we pulled into the driveway. It took awhile to get everything unloaded and we did that thing like when you move into a new place..."Put that in the living room, that goes in the bedroom, that in the sewing room, and that and that and that." We finally got to a bag she didn't was mine. 
"What is that, where did it come from?" She asks
"It's okay Elaine, I got this one."

Were we happy to get home??? I don't know...ask Elaine...

I know Lilee (on chair) and Nikee (on foot stool) were really glad. Elaine looks pretty happy too.

Quilt till you wilt...we do...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

January 2014...Who Knew???

Let's just say it didn't sneak up on us. One day we were two kids in high school wondering what's next and the next thing you know we're two adults in Virginia guessed it...What's next. Anyway... Happy Happy Happy.

We started out the New Year the way we finished the old...quilting with friends.

And along the way we picked up a 'new' quilter. Amy is standing next to her first quilt. Once completed it will be given to the expectant mother. The blocks were decorated at the baby shower and now Amy has tackled bringing it all together. It will be the baby's first quilt as well as Amy's.

Started the Quilts of Valor part of our lives off with a bang. "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of  their appointed rounds" That would be neither a mail carrier or a QOV Presenter.  Drove to Triangle, VA

The Ceremony was the Promotional Ceremony for a Marine Corps Captain advancing to Major. His Step Dad, a Vietnam Veteran and retired Army Lt. Colonel pinned on his new Oak Leaves. Both the ceremony and Awards were conducted in the foyer of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, VA. It would have taken a lot more than a little snow to keep me away from this one. 

The Major's quilt was made by his mother, a QOV quilter out of Georgia. The quilt Awarded to the Step Father was made by other QOV Volunteers. Here's one of those understatement things...they were beautiful. Here's the funny. Neither of them had a clue. The mother/wife and I have been communicating since September. Not only did she make her son's quilt she made another and gave it to me for an award yet to be determined. The husband had no idea she had made either.We had prearranged the transfer of her quilt to me and we met up in the foyer. The quilt was concealed in a Talbot's Outlet shopping bag. I found a chair and stashed the now two quilts, hers along with the one I brought. She and her husband were seated several rows away. During their conversation he says,
"I saw a guy walking around with a shopping bag just like yours."
"No kidding? How weird." with a slight grin she replied.

So needless to say when she introduced me it was pretty obvious her son standing with her was going to be Awarded a QOV. The real shock set in when I called his Step Father to join us. I don't think they yet know what happened. What happened is the cunning and determination of a woman. A QOV Volunteer no less.

Okay so I had the honor and the privilege this a good job or what. Don't tell anyone...they don't even have to pay me...oh wait.

One 'quilty hug' down one to go. 

Two very surprised QOV Recipients. Did I say very surprised?

No disrespect to the Lt. Colonel...but Ooh-Rah. 
Quilt till you wilt...we do...