Wednesday, March 22, 2017

My Crazy Quilt Foray

My grandmothers were both farmer's wives in Iowa. Growing up during the Depression, hours away from cities, on an isolated patch of land, it's not surprising that they were both very frugal. They were also crafty: making clothes, quilts, furniture and home decor. They didn't think of selling their crafts for money – crafts were just a practical aspect of homemaking. Maybe they made something extra lovely to share with their friends and families on occasion. But most importantly, they made stuff to use it.

I love the functional and practical aspects of crafting; in our current makers world, I think it's been a wee bit overlooked.

For example, I find myself thinking about quilts a lot. I began thinking about it - really, over a decade ago – when my grandmother made a quilt for me "from the neighbor-who-died's old dress shirts...oh, and an old sheet I had." I was one part weirded-out and one part impressed by her ingenuity. Upon reflection, it seemed to me that there was something common sense about making a quilt out of clothing/fabric scraps. Patchwork quilts, especially the ones that have this long, grand history as an American tradition, did they not start as someone's plan to use up some fabric scraps?

Today, you can buy kits in the stores especially dedicated to making fabric quilts. There are magazines and online patterns and special cutting supplies all built around the making of a quilt. The fabric options are endless – but don't worry – you can find a curator of quilting fabric, if you need help! It's amazing!

But it's also a long way from where quilts started.

Then I discovered Crazy Quilts. (Neither of my grandmothers ever made these.) Crazy Quilts use a random arrangement of fabric pieces. It's patchwork - without repetition. There was something really interesting to me about the idea of getting rid of repetition in quilts.... Crazy Quilts were a quilt fad in the 1800s. Today, most of the interest in Crazy Quilts revolves around the hand embroidery decoration of Crazy Quilts.

Here's one I found on Etsy. Link here.

But I am fascinated by the idea that randomly sized and shaped pieces can be stitched together to create something unique. I love the idea that a machine couldn't do this: not easily, anyway. I love that you can see the hand of the maker, but not necessarily because of fingerprints or sloppy workmanship, but because of the way someone's brain had to work to figure out this random pattern. It's improv in design. So cool!

So, this weekend I dumped out all my red fabric scraps, and set about making a crazy quilt inspired Schultüte  Why am I combining a German first-day-of-school tradition with an American quilting tradition? I don't know! Because it's a smaller amount of area than a quilt? Because I thought the Schultüte were getting a little too easy? Here's what I've got:

You can find this schultüte here on the WyseWorks Etsy Store.

I think it came out pretty neat. But it turned out to be A LOT of work. Fitting together all those random pieces together was NOT easy. I was also really determined to avoid breaking it down into quilting squares. (That probably would have made it easier, but I was didn't want grids and repetition, right?) I'm not sure I'll do it again. Well, maybe I will because I only used up about a third of my red fabric scraps. And there are a lot more scraps in other colors. We'll see. For now, it was definitely a challenge and a new way of thinking.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Arrival of Lucy

I find that even after 10ish years as a stay at home parent, I still have a hard time admitting how much time I spend doing busy work. It's a combination of cultural and societal pressures, I'm pretty sure. I feel like I should say, "Of course I have time to do that!" whenever I'm asked to do anything. The smorgasbord of menial tasks that I do don't feel worthy of saying "I AM working hard." (Laundry, cooking meals, shopping, chauffeuring, cleaning, home repairs, watching the three-year-old play on the sidewalk because she's not quite old enough to play alone outside yet...)

Long-time readers know that I've been struggling to carve out enough space for myself since Trixie was born. The third child has been really a tough adjustment! (This blog has been one of the casualties of that struggle.) Last summer, when I started playing with the idea of going back to work, I started running scenarios of how I could make it happen.

My preferred scenario was that my parents move to Colorado and become a bigger part in their grandchildren's (and my!) life. Maybe they could help enough to carve out space for me! This doesn't seem crazy to me because it happens frequently among our friends here in Colorado. But it seemed crazy to my parents. And in the last three years, my parents have deepened their roots in Rhode Island by buying an investment property and fixing it up. It takes a lot of their time. Instead of becoming closer to them, we've become farther apart.

So after that, what seemed to make the most sense for us was to get an Au Pair. Au Pairs are typically young women between the ages of 18-26 who come from a foreign country for a year. She lives with the family, takes a few classes, and takes care of the children and household tasks in exchange for a small stipend. For us, without grandparents or aunts or uncles nearby to help out, we really need something more than a structured day care or a scheduled nanny. An Au Pair would mean more flexibility and some extra help with all those menial tasks, like doing the kids laundry and making lunches and driving kids around.

Our Au Pair, Lucy, arrived three weeks ago. Lucy has been transitioning into more and more responsibility over this time. Typically, AuPairs have about 3 days before jumping feet-first into their jobs. Since I am still at home (not employed), Lucy has been working fewer than the maximum 45 hours a week. I've been in the house to keep an eye on how things are going. All the kids liked her immediately. Which is great! But the harder part is building a relationship of respect, especially with the 7 and 10 year old. It's coming, which is pretty exciting to see. Watching the process really makes me appreciate how experienced professionals, like teachers, can take responsibility and control of kiddos right away.

Lucy is German. This is an added bonus both for us and for Lucy. We are a bilingual, dual-citizenship household. The kids, growing up mostly in the US, are always interested to learn more about Germany.

A lot of friends are asking me what it's like to have somebody else living in our house. Really, I think it's fine. With our families in Germany and Rhode Island, and friends around the globe, we have always had a lot houseguests. Fritz and I aren't bothered by it; maybe it is our personalities? Or maybe the whole experience is still too new? We talked about Lucy a lot before she arrived. And when she got here, the kids quickly accepted Lucy as something between a big sister and parent.

We did put in a lot of effort to get the basement finished before Lucy arrived, which gave us some extra livable square footage. The basement was sitting in a sad state of drywalled but not painted or carpeted. My family flew in a couple of times to help with that, for which I am really grateful!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Dirt


The kids have been digging up the yard lately, making cool ramps and caves and holes. They're showing a renewed interest playing with the toy vehicles that I'd nearly given away.

We have a pretty small yard. Everyone can agree that kids need to play in the dirt, but when it comes to the REALITY of your kids pushing aside the mulch and hacking through the weed barrier, all to access the dirt below in a space that's already packed with toys...well, let's just say there was some yelling involved.

Often, I think our existence in this newish house with its lack of imperfections is problematic. I yearn for something less precious. It's not only hard to let go of those aspects of life that we think of as done and right and supposedly finished; it's hard to admit it that maybe our grown up ideas aren't the best for everyone.

Like for my kids. The best for them is when their fingernails are full of dirt and the newly dug cave holds the toy vehicles I thought they'd outgrown.