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This newsletter is a fairly long one because I haven't mailed one in many
months. There's a good reason for that, as you'll discover below. Let's get right
to it, starting with something to make you smile…
THE IMMACULATE CONTRAPTION
The following answers come from a Catholic elementary school test. The answers
haven't been touched up in any way.
The greatest miracle in the Bible
is when Joshua told his son to stand still and he obeyed him.
heard she was the mother of Jesus, she sang the Magna Carta.
born because Mary had an immaculate contraption.
A STROKE OF BAD LUCK
I was all set to send out this newsletter in late July when my life was turned
upside down: Steve suffered a stroke.
Steve complained of his left hand
feeling heavy. Later, while watching a ballgame on TV, he said his left leg felt
heavy, too. We searched online for what might be causing this. It didn't quite
fit the description we found for a stroke, and it was too late to go to the doctor,
so we left it for morning. In the morning a call to the doctor sent Steve to the
ER. He drove himself and walked in under his own power. An MRI confirmed that
he had had a small (good news) stroke deep inside his brain (bad news). An ambulance
took him to the University of Iowa hospital in Iowa City. A day later they said
he was doing better and released him.
One night at home and Steve's condition
got worse. Back to the ER. Back on an ambulance to Iowa City. An MRI revealed
that this wasn't a second stroke but the first stroke "completing" itself
- a rare stroke in evolution. For 5 days we watched Steve slowly lose function
until he couldn't move his fingers, toes, or ankle on his left side. This was
hard because you can't think about a recovery until you know how far you have
to go to recover. Fortunately, his mind, memory, right side, and sense of humor
After Steve finally bottomed out, we moved him to
Younker Acute Rehab at Methodist Hospital in Des Moines. This is a specialized
facility with only 23 beds. Not all stroke patients are good candidates for an
acute rehab facility. There they gave him 3 hours of therapy a day in order to
teach him how to walk again, regain use of his left arm, and learn one-handed
coping strategies. Their goal was to send him safely home, which they did 22 days
later. So for almost a month I was commuting an hour or so each way almost every
day. That got old.
So now Steve is going to outpatient therapy here in
Grinnell for 75 minutes, twice a week. He continues to improve. He wears an ankle
brace. He has a cane, but sometimes doesn't use it. He can navigate stairs. His
shoulder is getting stronger. His fingers, toes, and ankle are moving, though
there is a long way to go before they are normal again.
We expect Steve
to make something close to a full recovery. It starts with the right attitude
and the will to get better.
THE HOME FIRES
Will came home from Columbus
for a week in order to help out and to see for himself how his dad looked. The
help was critical because I had to absorb all of Steve's functions in both the
household and the business.
I was completely lost using Steve's PC. I
use a Mac. Will was able to help me process orders, pay online bills, file withholding
taxes, and a host of other things I still don't understand. In order to ease my
workload we suspended retail sales and just took care of wholesale orders for
a few weeks. (We're now selling retail again.)
Now Steve can slowly do
some of the computer work with his right hand. Also, he can guide me on what to
My sister cut short a vacation to come down from Lake Superior and
help me out as we prepped the house for Steve's return. We pulled up all the rugs,
moved our bed to the first floor, bought a bench for the tub/shower, and a host
of other little accommodations. We're still eating some of the meals she prepared
and froze for us!
Kate has been quick to do any little thing we ask her
to do. She has been a big help.
A STROKE OF GENIUS
While Steve was
in the hospital, we played a lot of games with him. For a while he won every single
game we played. It was as if the stroke that took away his left side compensated
by improving his mental acuity. I finally broke through and won a game of Qwirkle
Cubes. Still, the second most fortunate aspect of this situation is that it didn't
affect his mind. The most fortunate aspect is that it didn't kill him. A lot of
people don't get a second chance after a stroke.
of support and help we have gotten from family, neighbors, gaming friends, baseball
friends, and my fans is equal parts humbling, heartwarming, and awe-inducing.
Even though I haven't been able to answer the many notes that have come my way,
it has been reassuring to know so emphatically that we are not facing this alone.
One person asked Steve how she could help. Channeling a response The Beatles
gave many decades ago, he told her, "Buy more Judy Martin books!" As I wrote above:
His sense of humor is intact.
A PATTERN FOR THE FABRIC OF MY LIFE
the past couple of newsletters I have shared with you the story of "The Fabric
of My Life: 1969-2014." I made it for a contest sponsored by Quilter's Newsletter
commemorating their 45th anniversary. Because I had been quilting for those same
45 years and because I used to be an editor at Quilter's Newsletter, it seemed
natural that I should design and make a quilt for this contest. It was the first
time I had ever entered a contest, and I was the first runner-up. Then I submitted
the quilt to AQS for inclusion in their annual quilt show in Paducah. It was accepted
into the show and was on display there in April of this year.
first time I showed the quilt, I had people asking for the pattern. Here's a typical
email I received: "OK, I'm going to add my voice to the others who NEED the pattern
for this quilt!! Want it, must have it, wouldn't even begin to attempt the math
involved, willing to pay for it! C'mon, Guys, don't make me beg. It isn't pretty.
But I will if I must."
But because it was a small charm quilt with over
2100 different fabrics cut into small squares and rectangles, I didn't think anyone
would actually want to make it, despite the emails such as the one above. And
I knew it would be a challenging pattern to write. So when people asked for the
pattern, I told them I didn't make the quilt to present it as a pattern.
I lied. There is a pattern. Okay, okay, I didn't lie: I changed my mind. The editors
at American Quilter convinced me to write the pattern, which you can find
in their July 2015 issue.
KATE JUST WATCHED
My daughter loves movies, particularly Disney movies.
Her brother suggested she start writing reviews of the movies she watches. Thus
was born the blog featuring reviews from the world's first film critic with Down
The reviews probably won't make anyone forget the great Roger
Ebert, but they do have their charm. Feel free to share with anyone who might
enjoy these tasty morsels of film criticism.
"I HOPE YOU HEAR THIS ON THE RADIO"
We once again visited
Columbus, Ohio in June. Our purpose in going there was fourfold: I was giving
a Log Cabin lecture at Quilt Beginnings in nearby Dublin (great shop, by the way
we attended Origins Game Fair to promote our game Quilt Show and to try to sell
some other games to publishers; we wanted to see our son for the first time this
year; and we attended our first Will Bennett and the Tells concert. Let me tell
you about the concert.
It was in a basement bar on High Street, on the
campus of The Ohio State University. To say it was a dive bar is perhaps an insult
to dive bars everywhere. Let's just say you would never get me to give a quilt
lecture there. Still, it felt kind of rootsy. I imagine REM probably started playing
in places like this. Ditto the Old 97's. And how different could the Cavern Club
in Liverpool have been?
Load-in began at 8:00 for a 9:30 show. We helped
Will and his mates get their gear in, and then we headed up High Street to explore
the area on a hot, sticky night. Young people in Cavaliers paraphernalia were
everywhere as this was the night of the first game of the NBA finals.
at the bar everything was delayed because the sound man was a no-show. After a
long wait someone had a key to open the sound room, set up a mic and get everything
rolling. The first act was a solo artist who had just been recruited that day
when the original warmup act bailed on them. He had a clear voice and sang a variety
of interesting original and cover tunes, including "House of the Rising Sun."
That was notable because Steve had called Will from the road to Columbus to suggest
the Tells could do a completely different and interesting version of that song.
Then it was time for my boy to take the stage. The Tells
are a classic four-piece band: lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, and drums.
That's what the Beatles featured. That's what the Old 97's feature. Will plays
rhythm guitar, sings lead vocals, and writes the songs. That equates to Rhett
Miller of the Old 97's or John Lennon (on the songs he wrote).
into what will be the first song on their first album, "I Hope You Hear This on
the Radio." (That's something we all hope!) Then they proceeded to play nine other
songs off the album, ending with a rip-roaring "Paloma." They were so tight! They
were so good! The band hasn't played many shows. They've mostly been practicing,
but the practice has paid off. The crowd, and I use that term generously, demanded
an encore. Just like that, the show was done. It was a rush for everyone involved.
I've seen Will perform solo many times, and I've always liked his shows. He has
insisted, though, that most of his songs were intended to be performed by a full
band. After hearing them that way, I must say Will is right.
Will Bennett and the Tells are in the studio recording their first album. If you
would like a taste of their music, they have a teaser video of "Somewhere Down
in Texas" for you to enjoy.
BY THE SEA
I contributed an easy Log Cabin pattern and an article
of Log Cabin tips to the July/August 2015 issue of Quiltmaker. The pattern is
called "By the Sea." You can find details for the pattern here:
In June I was privileged to be the keynote speaker at
this year's National Quilting Association's annual show. It was held for the first
time in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The NQA asked me to reflect on how far
quilting has come since their founding in 1970. Because I have been making quilts
since 1969 and writing about them since 1979, I was in a good position to reflect
on this. Through a PowerPoint presentation I was able to detail how the world
has evolved and how quilt making has evolved with it.
For instance, I
showed "Hexagon Beauty," a pattern from the early 1970s. It was one solitary black
and white page. It had no yardage, no quilt measurements, no quilt diagram. Yet
it was enough for people to make a quilt from. Today if I put out a book with
patterns no more detailed than that, I would be lucky to sell a dozen copies!
But in those days (the yabba dabba do days, my kids would say) it was all we had,
and it was enough.
The NQA is an important organization. They have a certification
program for judges. They have a certification program for teachers and sponsor
a Teacher of the Year award. They have a grant program to support both education
and outreach. They have a Masterpiece Quilt program to recognize the ultimate
in design, workmanship, and quilting. They sponsor National Quilting Day, which
will be on March 19 next year.
I invite and encourage all of you to join the National Quilting Association
and to try to get to one of their annual shows. Next year will once again be in
Little Rock on May 19-21.
QUILTS AND KIDS
You know I love both quilts
and kids. The order of that depends on the day! Quilter's Newsletter's
June/July 2015 issue featured several 300-word essays on the subject of Quilts
and Kids, including one by me.
WHY DID GOD MAKE MOTHERS
Speaking of kids, here are some answers by
second graders to a couple of important questions:
Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to
clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.
did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my mom just the
same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.
Special Olympics took on a little different flavor for us this year. The way it
works in Iowa is you enter the district competitions under the auspices of a team.
Usually these teams are formed by the various providers of social services for
the disabled within the community. For years Kate has been getting services from
one organization in Grinnell, but in the last year she switched to a new one.
The new organization isn't geared up to do Special Olympics. That meant that if
Kate wanted to participate this year, she needed to find a team or form a new
team herself. Kate and Steve filed all the paperwork and formed the Grinnell White
Sox. The team has one athlete: Kate. It has one coach: Steve. One of the reasons
they chose the White Sox name was so they wouldn't have to buy or make any gear
for the venture. They both have Sox shirts and caps, and Steve has a couple of
jackets, as well.
Decked out in their Sox paraphernalia, my favorite Special
Olympics team (and I) headed to Marshalltown for the district competition. As
usual, Kate was entered in the softball throw and the 50-meter dash. She did well
in the softball throw, but it was only good enough for second place. That meant
she wouldn't be going to state in that event.
After lunch she ran the
dash and won! The most exciting part of the track events was the 400-meter walk.
Her friend Chris took a wide lead in the early going, but another friend, also
a Kris, came from way back and won by half a step. It was the thrill of victory
and the agony of defeat all rolled into one. Here's a photo of a radiant Kate
with her blue ribbon: https://www.facebook.com/QuiltingWithJudyMartin/photos/a.445732802194387.1073741828.443193929114941/688286391272359/?type=1&theater
In May we went to the campus of Iowa State University in Ames for the
state Special Olympics. Kate ran a really good race, as well as she could run.
It was good for fifth. Medals go to the top three, and Kate has never won a medal.
We were so proud of her, though, because she ran her race well. If she does her
best, no one can complain.
The Grinnell White Sox celebrated with some
great barbeque at Hickory Park in Ames. It was a fitting coda to Kate's Special
FROM THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS TO THE NFL
seen this already, but Will called to share with us the amazing story that All-Pro
NFL running back, Jamaal Charles, won a gold medal in the Special Olympics as
a 10-year-old! He had a learning disability and was picked on as a child. It was
Special Olympics that showed him he had a gift and could achieve anything. In
the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles this
week, Charles gave a brief speech and led the athletes in reciting the athletes'
oath. Take a look. It's a wonderful inspiration.
MY NEW BOOK
Every time I finish writing a book, I have a down period
where I catch my breath after an intense several months of dealing with details.
Then I often get into projects around the house that were neglected while I was
devoting most waking hours to the book. Then, if I'm lucky, I'll be recharged
and have a book idea that thoroughly excites me.
After finishing Extraordinary
Log Cabin Quilts, I had the breath catching and the house projects. Then I
had the fun distraction of designing and making two quilts to enter in contests.
But I wasn't lucky enough to be totally swept away by my next book plan. Until
I'm hard at work (as hard as I can be under the circumstances) on
a book about Lone Star quilts. My working title is Infinite Lone Stars,
though there's a chance that could change. This is an idea I've been kicking around
for years. All that time Steve has been hounding me to do it. What I've discovered
is that this book will capture a lot of the fun of my Log Cabin books because
you'll get to play with the block arrangements, just like you do when you make
a Log Cabin! I am really excited!!! Can you tell by all the exclamation points?!!!!
Infinite Lone Stars sounds like an exaggeration. Strictly speaking
it is. From a practical standpoint, though, it's an apt description of the book's
contents. The basic blocks I will present will have thousands of possible arrangements.
I won't show all of them, (That would require infinite pages!) but I'll show enough
to fill your head with exciting ideas.
One of the things that held me
back in the past was the trouble I was having finding 6 fabrics that successfully
graduated in value and intensity. The quilts I was designing needed to blend just
so in order to look their best. If I couldn't find the fabrics I needed, I didn't
want to make the quilts or write the book.
Through continual tinkering
I found the right size patches that would allow me to make the right size quilts
with just 5 fabrics. I can find 5 fabrics that work! That hasn't been a problem.
In fact, today I was at a quilt shop and bought 10 different fabrics, enough to
make 2 very different and, I hope, very beautiful quilts.
a lot of you will like: I will be presenting these quilts two ways: with strip
piecing and with rotary cutting instructions for patches. Because they are not
scrap quilts, it makes sense to do it this way.
I'm not sure how many
pages Infinite Lone Stars will be (a number less than infinite!). I'm not
sure of a price or a publication date. Steve's stroke has slowed everything down.
I'll keep you posted.
"IT'S NOT BARF INDUCING"
Steve's stroke must
have affected his color sense. I was in my computer, playing with color combinations,
Civil War era colors specifically, and asked him for his opinion. "I'm not in
love with it, but it's not barf inducing," was the reply. Gee, thanks Steve!
Kate was invited to an annual picnic put on by the University of Iowa
Hawkeyes football team for clients of Camp Courageous in Iowa. The picnic was
at their new practice facility on the campus.
What a great time we had!
Coach Ferentz and the rising senior players joined us as we ate pie. Individual
players moved around from table to table, engaging the guests and posing for pictures.
Then they went to a long series of tables and we were able to walk the length
of the tables and get all their autographs.
After that we got a tour of
the facility: the locker room, the weight room, a lounge with TVs and foosball
and such, study areas, classrooms for studying game film, and the indoor practice
field. On the field the players played catch with the campers and did things like
help them push the tackling dummies. We also got to meet the cheerleaders and
the mascot, Herky. You can see us with senior running back, Jordan Canzeri here:
The players were so gracious and attentive. It was wonderful. We all hear
about the blue chip athletes who go to college but live some privileged existence
that doesn't seem to involve actually going to class. We hear about all the arrests.
The players we met were kind and well spoken. They were on schedule to graduate.
They were a credit to their families and their university. They represented the
best of the student athlete ideal. We've seen this repeatedly with the Grinnell
College baseball and volleyball teams, too. One doesn't have to look very hard
to find student athletes you'd be proud to have your son or daughter marry.
IN MY FACE AND I'LL FOLLOW YOU ANYWHERE
Why is it that when you blow in a
dog's face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him on a car ride, he sticks
his head out the window?
WHAT'S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE
The other day Steve
dragged me out of the house to show me two geese and their three goslings marching
down the sidewalk. They started on our side of the street, crossed about a third
of the way from the corner, and then waddled north to the corner on that side
of the street. They looked like geese with a purpose.
We're nowhere near
any water. There are a couple of small lakes on the south end of town. To the
north of us is a little lake at the country club. Perhaps that's where they were
headed. I don't know. They had to be a long way from home, wherever home was.
It was just one of those little serendipities that make life a pleasure.
Speaking of geese… I received a letter from a woman who
wanted to make "Shakespeare in the Park" and wondered if there were an easier
way to make the flying geese units than simply cutting squares and triangles and
stitching them together.
In my opinion, no, there is not an easier or
better way. There are more convoluted ways; there are more wasteful ways; there
are more inaccurate ways; there might be ways that are about as good, but there
are not better ways.
Imagine a quilting world where once you learned
to cut one shape, you had effectively learned to cut all shapes and didn't need
to learn a new method in order to make a new quilt. Imagine a quilting world where
what you cut was the actual patch you saw in the quilt rather than some intermediate
unit that you couldn't tell from looking at it if it was right or wrong. Imagine
a quilting world where you weren't throwing out large bits of that precious $12
per yard fabric all because a "shortcut" said it was easier to make that way.
Imagine a quilting world where all the patches fit together perfectly because
you cut them accurately and sewed them together with an accurate seam allowance
and thus didn't need to go through the time-and-fabric-wasting extra step of "trimming
You don't have to imagine that world. You can actually live in
it. I do, and so do many others. We're in a golden age of quilt making right now:
We have so many beautiful fabric choices; so many patterns; so many great quilt
shops; helpful videos; inspirational blogs; communities of quilt guilds; and so
much more. As I was preparing my NQA address, I came face to face with just how
lucky we are to be making quilts in the here and now rather than in decades past.
One area, however, where we have taken a step back is in making too many
beginning quilt makers think they need a special class and a special method to
make each new quilt. Instead we should be promoting simple basic skills so every
quilter can have the freedom to confidently tackle almost any quilt she or he
KATE'S MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR
Will gave Kate a special (though
late) birthday present this year. Will arranged for Kate to travel to Chicago
where he and his girlfriend treated her to a special weekend in the big city.
Kate traveled to the Windy City all by herself via the Megabus, which
she picked up in Iowa City. She was there for a day and a half. In that time they
saw "The Tempest" at the Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier, walked to Oz Park,
walked to the Lincoln Park Zoo, shopped for clothes on the Magnificent Mile, rode
the El around the Loop, visited Shedd Aquarium, watched the lunar eclipse, ate
pig jowls at The Purple Pig, ate at The Shake Shack, and ate award-winning desserts
at a restaurant whose name Kate couldn't recall.
Then it was an early
morning to catch the Megabus back home. She was home in time to go to volleyball
practice. It was a whirlwind tour that might have killed a lesser person, but
not our indefatigable Kate! Does Kate have "the best brother ever?" She says so.
One thing Steve's stroke has done is give us occasion
to reevaluate where we are and where we are going. At this point everything -
from just retiring to selling the business but continuing to write books to selling
off my quilts to carrying on with no changes - is on the table.
on a Lone Star book because it interests me, but Steve's stroke has limited my
ability to work on it. How we answer the questions above will determine whether
we publish it or someone else does.
Bottom line: My career is probably
headed to the ninth inning. Soon enough Hawk Harrelson will be saying, "And this
ballgame is over!"
Kulula is an Airline with its head
office situated in Johannesburg. Kulula airline attendants make an effort to make
the in-flight "safety lecture" and announcements a bit more entertaining. Here
are some real examples that have been heard or reported:
"In the event
of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop
screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child
travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are
travelling with more than one small child, pick your favourite."
at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we'll try to have
them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your
money, more than Kulula Airlines."
"As you exit the plane, make sure to
gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly
among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses."
seats cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event of an emergency water
landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments."
can take this newsletter with my compliments, but do not rely on it to save you
from drowning! Thanks for reading. We'll try to do this again after the holidays.
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