Tuesday, January 9, 2018

From Fabric to Finish: On Ringo Lake Mystery

I'm going to link up to the Final Link Up for the Quiltville Mystery, and decided a blog post was fitting.

This year I participated in the Bonnie Hunter annual Quiltville Mystery quilt, "On Ringo Lake." I have made a few Bonnie Hunter quilts in the past, including Allietare and Celtic Solstice. As soon as Bonnie announced the colors for this year's quilt, it was irresistible for me. I adore coral and teal and chocolate brown. So, since this year was our year to stay put instead of traveling to see family over the holidays, I decided I was all in. I got to hit a couple of quilt shops on our trip to Texas as we traveled, and added a few new pieces to my stash. Then I did a real stash pull to add to it after I got home in November.

I bought several new fabrics (mostly corals and teals) but pulled all the possibilities that I had in my stash to use alongside them. Those browns and beiges have been aging a while.
 The first clue always comes out on Black Friday, and it's a great diversion for those of us who don't shop. Then clues follow each Friday, and we have the opportunity to link up photos of what we've finished thus far to Bonnie's blog each week. I didn't link every week, and mostly use Instagram for my daily quilting photos. I am not the most consistent blogger (LOL), so Instagram is a lot easier for me to journal my progress.

Week by week, the pieces began to pile up!

Clue 1: a stack of tiny nine-patches

Clue 2: Gaggles of Coral Geese

Clue 3: So many diamonds!

Clue 4: Piecing Teal/Brown triangles
Clue 5: Brown Geese join the flock

The pieces were already adding up.

Clue 6: Coral triangles added to Clue 4

Clue 7: Joining the Coral and Brown Geese
 Finally, Bonnie revealed the block design, so we could begin assembling units into blocks. I had fun leisurely piecing blocks while we were snowbound with a nice beautiful snow after the first of the year.
Clue 8: Blocks! I have made double units, but decided to piece just enough blocks for my lap-sized quilt first. 
 I decided to make a 60x72" version for Maggie first, and then use the rest of my units at our annual Ft. Caswell quilting retreat next weekend. When I started this mystery, I had planned from the beginning that it would be the perfect project to take with me to retreat.

Clue 9: The reveal! 
 I got the quilt assembled late on Sunday evening, and then I had a chance to quilt it first thing on Monday. I decided to do a hand-guided meander because SO MANY SEAMS. Plus, every once in a while, I love to hand guide a stipple. Seems like old times.

Quilted and bound!

I couldn't resist a photo On Millsap Pond. (I cannot in good conscience call it "Millsap Lake.")

I had a fantastic time from the beginning to end of this project. And it's not even finished yet! I'm going to piece and quilt a queen-sized version for me. If you ever have a holiday season where you want to add a little sewing, I highly recommend the Quiltville mystery.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Quilts of Compassion Disaster Response Team November 2017 Overview

17But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

A family in Port Arthur, TX
My husband Dennis and I had the opportunity to serve with the Quilts of Compassion Disaster Response TEAM deployment to Texas in early November 2017. Many of you know from my quilting accounts on Facebook and Instagram that I am gung-ho about the ministry of Quilts of Compassion, particularly the Disaster Response mission. I have served on two previous deployments in Tupelo, MS and in Columbia, SC, and spend a lot of my charitable sewing time making quilts myself, or quilting the donated tops and backings of other like-minded quilters to donate in response to a natural disaster. Both my husband Dennis and I are also volunteers with the disaster response organization Eight Days of Hope, and have served on several missions with 8DOH helping families recover from tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. I wanted to blog about our trip to educate all of you about the Quilts of Compassion ministry, but really to just tell our story and experiences while serving. I cannot blog "on the fly" while we are on the trip, so I rely on Instagram images to document where we go and what we did.  Like me, Janice Grimes (Executive Director of QOC, and visionary extraordinaire) has difficulty processing and publishing all that we are doing, seeing, and serving each day as it happens. I'm sure that Janice will tell the "whole tale" including everyone on the TEAM when she blogs our trip, and I'll link it here when she does. I'm just a longarm quilter that volunteers with the organization. I am not responsible for any part of the ministry--I'm one of THOUSANDS of volunteers that make quilts. I'm one of dozens of volunteers that deliver them. Quilts of Compassion would not be successful if it depended on ME for its mission. We depend on ALL OF YOU. If you are reading this blog, you have a role to play to support Quilts of Compassion. If you quilt, you can donate. If you don't...you can donate cash. Read everything, then think about what you are called to do.

Hurricane Harvey attacked the region of Texas and Louisiana along the Gulf Coast in August 2017 with record-flooding in a rain event that was unfathomable. Reports vary but some cities recorded over four FEET of rain in a very short period of time. Flooding quickly became the main concern. There was just nowhere for all that water to go. Homes that had never flooded, had no concerns about flooding in the past, and no reason to have flood insurance...flooded in this thousand-year event. The devastation is wide-spread, and daunting as we drove from the coast of Texas to well west of Houston along I-10. Neighborhoods still have piles of debris months later. Homes are still gutted and drying out. Contractors are scarce.

Quilts of Compassion's mission of "Bringing Hope and Encouragement to the Hurting" resonates with our family, and it's for this reason that we continue to serve and donate to QOC. So often, weeks after a storm, as families are trying to rebuild, the stress and loneliness and fatigue can be overwhelming. Quilts of Compassion deploys as a Tier II disaster response organization to meet those spiritual and emotional needs of the communities affected. We personally deliver the quilts that have been lovingly made by quilters all over the country --all over the WORLD-- and remind communities that God loves them, that we love them, and are praying for them, aching with them, and most of all, that we remember their plight and grieve with them. We have hope for their recovery, and we encourage them to stand strong. When we deliver quilts, we pray for them and with them, hug them, and leave a precious heirloom-quality treasure that will tell the story of their strength and determination to the generations to follow, while offering them practical warmth and comfort now.

At the Quilt Dedication for our NC quilts at Christ Presbyterian Church on October 14, 2017

Dennis and I left home on October 29 with about 150 quilts from eastern NC quilters to deliver in TX, headed toward south Mississippi where we stopped for a visit with his parents "on the way." It was a great visit, where his mother overfed us, setting the tone for the amount of wonderful food we would eat on the entire trip. (Y'all, it's no sacrifice to serve in east Texas, where you can get outstanding Cajun food, Tex-Mex, steaks, and pretty much any other cuisine you desire.) 

We headed to Houston on November 2, since International Quilt Festival was going strong, and I'd never attended before. It was too "coincidental" to pass up the opportunity to visit Festival! I sold it to Dennis as the "Oshkosh of quilting," so he completely understood. If you ever get a chance to go to Houston for Festival, GO. The quilts magnificently portray the best the world has to offer, and the vendors cover the spectrum of every aspect of the quilt industry. We attended Festival on both Friday and Saturday, and loved every minute. See the full story of our two days at Festival here.

On Sunday, we arrived at our staging location in Winnie, Texas to meet the semi truck that was delivering nearly 2000 quilts for delivery in the region. Other members of the Disaster Response Team were still traveling, so it was up to Dennis and me to unload 135 bags of quilts into the small conference room that would be our home for the week. While we waited, we met several families in the hotel that were displaced from the storm, and we gifted them quilts. After we'd unloaded the truck, we had a few local friends of the ministry show up to help us organize the room a bit, and sort the quilts into categories like king/queen, twin, lap, youth, and infant. We weren't expecting the rest of the team until late Monday night, so Dennis and I decided to go ahead and drive to a local community we'd heard had been hit hard, and continue delivering the quilts that we'd brought with us from North Carolina. We headed to Port Arthur.

One of the first quilts I gifted this week was this "Wild Orchid" Cobblestones quilt that I'd pieced and quilted. The last quilt of my own that I gifted this week was its twin. I'm still trying to discipline myself not to order another jelly roll of Wild Orchid and more yardage to make another one for myself. Being a quilter in the business of giving away quilts means that you give away some quilts that you really, really love and would like to keep yourself. 

Sometimes with flooding it is difficult to tell which homes were affected and which weren't--we ran into that with the Columbia, SC floods, but were fortunate that Dennis had been there as the flood was receding, and had served families in the community, so we had some recon. Trust me when I say it is not difficult to tell where the flooding has affected Texas! It seemed every home in Port Arthur went underwater. We stopped in an obviously recovering neighborhood, and began going door-to-door. You can see a family we met at the top of this post. I can tell you a story from each house. We begin to be weighed down with the stories of these families...so if you want to come over for a cup of coffee while I talk too fast, I'm happy to tell you all about the people of Port Arthur.

We decided to stay in Port Arthur that night to continue the work we'd started on Sunday afternoon, but when we woke up Monday morning, we had a text from Janice that she needed our help retrieving 500 more quilts from the APQS partners in Austin that had been collecting quilts for the area. So, we loaded up and drove to Austin and back on Monday. It was a fun adventure with a lot of Texas cattle land, a beautiful pit stop at a nature center, and awesome conversation with my best friend. We both really look forward to traveling together, and just have the best time doing it. We met Susan of Over the Top Quilting at her home (where she had also just returned from International Quilt Festival) and crammed 500 quilts in to the van, filling every available space. We actually had to reuse some of the vacuum bags I'd emptied the afternoon before, but everything eventually sorta fit.

Houston in the morning, Houston in the evening

Texas is gorgeous.

Stopped at a Nature Center for a travel break

...which afforded me an opportunity to snap a picture of my Cakewalk quilt (one of the sleeping quilts we brought with us for camping in the van).

Shoving 500 quilts in the van!

Filled to top!

We even reutilized my vacuum bags.

So thankful for our Mission Mobile!

When we got back to the hotel in Winnie, we unloaded the van, but decided to go ahead and check in so that we were ready to begin setting up the staging area with the rest of the team on Tuesday morning. Tuesday, November 7 would be "Day One" of our deployment as a Disaster Response TEAM. Follow the links to read about each day's work, summarized below:

Tuesday, November 7 Day One: Setting up the staging area, deliveries in Port Arthur, including how God brought us to Encounter Church on a Tuesday night
Wednesday, November 8  Day Two: Setting aside 650 quilts for Lincoln Middle School, plus 85 for faculty and staff, serving the staff in our hotel, preparing packages for families displaced from homes still in hotels, then deliveries in Sour Lake (particularly Countrywood Estates)
Thursday, November 9  Day Three: Preparing packages for families in our hotel, contacting area preschools and daycare centers, then delivery to Lincoln Middle School in Port Arthur
Friday, November 10  Day Four: Delivery to area preschools, daycare centers, and then Community Christian School

Finally, on Saturday, Dennis and I hugged Janice and Cindy goodbye, and headed to Houston to see my nephew Race ride in a two-day motocross event. It was a lovely extension of our trip where we "coincidentally" were close enough to support him and learn more about this hobby that is a significant part of his life. We left Houston on Sunday evening, and after stopping along the way, arrived at my parents' home on Monday, where we stayed for a short visit on our way back to North Carolina. It was a great way to combine mission, ministry, business and family, all on one long road trip. There and back again, we were gone October 29-November 17, and you could easily have to read 20 blog posts to capture it all. Thankfully, you will not have to...just six. Ha!

If you want to hear more after you read all this, just give me a call or email. I'm happy to talk with your guild about the ministry of Quilts of Compassion, or your family about ways to become involved. 

QOC Day Four November 10

We started our last day of the trip with lots of young child and infant quilts to distribute. The other team members had put in the groundwork of calling and arranging delivery to preschools and daycare centers in the region on Thursday, so Dennis and I loaded the van full of carefully bagged and counted quilts for delivery to Orange (on the Louisiana line), Nederland, and Beaumont. Janice and Cindy loaded their vehicle to head north and west. Our first stop was at Community Christian School preschool, where the 82 children were in chapel, and waiting for us to hand-deliver quilts to them. I felt a little bit like Oprah this week..."You can have a quilt, you can have a quilt, and you can have a quilt! EVERYBODY gets a quilt!" But Grams and Grampy have no fear of preschool children, so we waded right into the thick of them, opening bags and handing them quilts as appropriate for their gender. One little boy said, "Can I have a dinosaur quilt?" I said YES YOU CAN, then said a quick prayer that I'd find a dinosaur quilt in the bags. You quilters did not disappoint! Plenty of dinosaurs to go around for the little pack of boys that requested them after that. 

After all the sweet little ones had a quilt of their own, we were given a tour of the school by the preschool administrator. Esther informed us that the K12 school had been relocated to a furniture warehouse across town (owned by one of the granddaddies) while reconstruction takes place this year. The preschool had been prioritized, because licensing issues require certain facilities for young children. So while she and her 82 students are back where they belong, all of the older siblings are still displaced.

School kitchen

Teachers' classroom materials! They are coping without many items while relocated.

Esther Seaman with Dennis and me
Suddenly, it was pretty clear where those two hundred elementary quilts belonged! Esther called her counterpart at the K12 school, who was grateful that we could come. We contacted Janice and Cindy, who were available to go get the quilts in Winnie, and meet us in Orange at the K12 CCS in the afternoon. We continued on to deliver the other preschool quilts we'd prepared, visiting three centers in Nederland and Beaumont, before grabbing a quick sandwich, and heading back to Orange.

CCS meets in a furniture warehouse-turned-temporary school. Classes are meeting in the old showroom areas, and there are still upholstery samples on the wall. The Friday we were there was homecoming, so the kids were dressed in their "spirit" gear, and were super excited about the Powder Puff Football game they had that evening. You see, the flood canceled their regular football game...but they have a can-do spirit in Texas. Lots of flexibility.

Unlike the quick assembly we had at Lincoln Middle School, the children were able to come to an area where all of our remaining quilts were set up for them to peruse, and they got to choose a quilt to take. We started with the kindergarten, and went up each grade. Our concern was that the quilts left were too "young" for some of the older kids, but you know what? Once again our human expectations were just wrong. By the time we got to 11th grade, most of the kids were choosing for a neighbor's child, or a niece or nephew. They all "knew a kid" that needed a quilt. It was precious. Faculty had plenty to choose from for their own children, or grandchildren. A few were taken for "mom with dementia" or "grandmother in a nursing home."

Before we even left for the day, kids in the after school program were using their quilts as playmats and comfort. Like LMS, kids left with their quilts wrapped around them or clutched to their chest.

 Then our last stop of the day was in a daycare facility where most kids had lost everything. The highlight of that visit was a young child standing next to his dad while dad told us their rescue story. The child interrupted to exclaim, "I got to ride in a boat!" What a hoot, viewing the adventure of a flood from the eyes of a young child. Dad said that the kid keeps asking when there will be another flood...NOT SOON, we all pray.

Our TEAM ended the day with a nice Texas steak and potato dinner, and the sad realization that we wouldn't see each other again for a while. Dennis and I had served with Janice and Cindy last in Columbia, SC in January 2016, and it's completely believable that it could be nearly two years before we see them again. So, hugs, tears, and a lot of gratitude for social media, phones and texting!

We gave away every single quilt of the 3,000 quilts donated by quilters from all fifty states, plus Canada, Sweden and Germany. Eight people, four days, 3,000 quilts. When we signed up to go on this trip (and thought there would only be 1,500 quilts--ONLY! HA!), Dennis was concerned with the math of that equation. He was talking hours in a day (short days, it gets dark early), number of quilts we can fit in our van, how long it takes to meet a family and hear their story...the math just didn't add up. But as we talked over the meal on that last night, we were all reminded the unknown in our math equation that we were calculating was GOD. He proves over and over that He has a good plan, and it's much better than ours. I was repeatedly faithless all week, fretting over how far apart destinations were, how little time we were allowing, what the "plan" was...He was Faithful. Forgiving.

A final takeaway from our last day--we could have delivered 10,000 quilts. 50,000 quilts. FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND homes were affected by the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. That's as many as 2,000,000 people, or more. Plus schools, businesses...everywhere we looked, people are driving cars with temporary tags. Texas needs all the love, prayers and help you can send. Consider how you are called to Bring Hope and Encouragement to the Hurting.

QOC Day Three November 9

Thursday morning dawned with us realizing transporting 700 quilts would take every bit of space we had. So, we loaded all the kids quilts in our vehicles and ended up rebagging the adult quilts in contractor bags, hooking up the trailer, and carting that along also for the trip back to Port Arthur.

Once all the LMS quilts were loaded, then we could evaluate what was left, and package gift bags for the 35+ families in our own hotel that had been displaced by the flooding. Much like the day before, we had complete cooperation from hotel staff to protect the privacy of the residents, but give us enough information so that we could give appropriate quilts. As we approached the end of Day Three, we had done such a great job of distributing quilts as a team that we really had a limited supply of adult men and women's quilts left. But it is always a "fishes and loaves" thing with God, and we have sufficient to meet all the needs He brings us. We spent the rest of the morning calling preschools and daycares, arranging to deliver the rest of our children's and infant's quilts the following day. We had about 200 "elementary" aged children's quilts left and we just weren't sure yet where they would go. But half the team was leaving in the morning, and we were trusting that a delivery location would appear.

I do not have a single picture at Lincoln Middle School, in west Port Arthur. Out of respect for school policy of no pictures of students, I just left my phone in the van, as did Dennis. But OH MY GOODNESS...the sight of that stage with quilts stacked 10 deep in 60 piles across the entire stage...and then another row of gorgeous quilts for teachers and staff. And then the sight of those students filing in, one class at a time, to sit in those old wooden folding seats that we had in my high school auditorium (ugh) brought back so many memories. The cacophony of kids talking that weren't supposed to be talking, teachers demanding quiet that just wasn't going to appear prematurely, and the underlying vibration of excitement and anticipation. Teachers and staff hugging us, so grateful to be remembered. Story after story of flood rescues, living in campers, hotels, with family or friends. The local school board coming to thank us. And then the complete respect the student body showed for their principal when she called them to attention! It was beautiful. Kids began filing across the stage, choosing between two or three quilts we held up for them (based on gender, and random chance)...the whispered thank yous, the grateful hugs, pausing for their teacher to snap a quick picture with an ear to ear grin full of bravado...

And then the end of day. Kids filing out to the bus with their quilt wrapped over their shoulders or clutched tightly to their chest. Teachers coming back in to thank us again, and choose for their younger children from the pile remaining. Staff choosing for the faculty that were absent, or for children that were out, so that no one would feel left out or forgotten.

I have to say, it was a little picture of heaven. Everyone loved. Everyone blessed. God glorified.

We finished that beautiful night with a great dinner of Mexican food, and a sad goodbye to the members of our team that had to start their trips back the next morning. We planned a "divide and conquer" sort of day for Friday, with deliveries in far ranging communities. It did not disappoint.