Tag Archives: moda

Tu-Na Quilts: Wanted– Sister to Help Share the Brotherly Love

Warning: Tissues may be needed!

When my daughter, Emily, was young, her bedtime prayers always included “..and, please, help me get a sister.”

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Here’s Emily at age two modeling a vintage coat. Yes, it was mine.

She wanted the sister experience and with three older brothers and one younger one, I can understand. However, it was not meant to be. 

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Here’s Emily with her brothers.

So we decided to do the next best thing for our family. The spring before my daughter’s senior year in high school, my husband and I applied to be host parents for a foreign exchange student program.

Once our family was accepted, we were emailed pictures and biographies of student’s from all over the world. While scrolling through them, both my daughter and I couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw her. Our jaws dropped. She looked so similar to Emily that one could think they really were sisters. We requested Kerstin and she came to live with us in August of that year.

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The girls are getting ready for a school dance. Kerstin is on the left and Emily on the right. They have been asked if they are real-life sisters.

By the second day after her arrival,  I knew she would fit right into our family when I heard my youngest son cry out and found him pinned under the dining table by Kerstin. That was 9 1/2 years ago. Kerstin was an only child when she came to us but soon learned how to hold her ground in a large family.

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Kerstin was involved in many school and non-school activities. She made many friends while she was here. Here are the girls after a dance recital receiving flowers from Alyssa, who still remains a good friend to both of them.

Two weeks after Kerstin came to live with us, I walked past the door of Emily’s room and saw both girls sitting on the bed crying. By then, my husband and I had been to several AFS (stands for American Field Service and is the name of the foreign exchange student program that we used) orientations and were told to confront problems right away. So I entered the room and said, “Ok, girls, what’s the problem?” Amidst the sobbing and tears both girls replied “we’re talking about when Kerstin has to leave after school is over next year.” I knew it then and it still holds true today; Kerstin had entered our hearts to stay.

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No school year would be complete without spending an evening at the senior prom. The girls shopped together for their dresses (and yes, it’s all about the dress) and had dates for the prom.

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Although the foreign exchange program in our high school has the kids enroll as Juniors they still get to walk through graduation. After Kerstin returned to her home in Germany, she still had two more years of high school to complete.

The exchange program is a 10 month program. The school year went very fast and Kerstin was able to extend her stay for an additional month so that we could take her on several family trips to show her our beautiful country.

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These trips were Kerstin’s first camping experiences. One night in July of that summer, we braved the heat of the Arizona desert and a few days later in the mountains of the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone Park where we were scrambling to find more clothes to put on. The girls still have those matching Dr. Pepper pants we purchased near Yellowstone so they wouldn’t freeze.

We camped at Arches National Park in Utah and the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, saw the Grand Canyon, drove through Sequoia National Park in California, wet our toes at Venice Beach in Los Angeles, peered at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and rode the white water (it was actually quite tame) of the Yellowstone river in Montana. We made lots of memories and had lots of fun.

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Here we were 9 years ago! Time has flown by fast.

When we signed up to be a host family, we received no promises or guarantees that the year would go smoothly or that we would bond with our student or them with us. We are so pleased that the year went incredibly well as we grew very close to Kerstin and her to us. Saying goodbye that summer was very hard for all of us.

I baked and decorated cookies and a cake. We invited all of her friends and our extended family to help us celebrate her year with us and wish her well ’til we meet again. The German flag is outside of the picture on the right.

We had no idea if we’d ever see each other again or what the future would bring.

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This pic was taken a day before we put her on a plane in Chicago and sent her back to her family in Germany. Everyone in our family became attached to her.

I am so happy to tell you that Kerstin’s been a part of our lives since. Modern technology (Skype, Face Time, Texting, and email) helps us stay connected. She’s come to visit us many times. One year Emily went to stay with her in Germany for 5 weeks. A couple of years ago, my husband I spent two weeks visiting Kerstin and her family. Kerstin was a bridesmaid in Emily’s wedding and we were honored to have her parents, aunt, and cousin attend as well.

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It was a beautiful wedding. 

Kerstin called us last spring to tell us there was a possibility she would be coming to spend the fall semester at Montana State University in Billings, about 6 hours away from our home in North Dakota. She is studying to become a bi-lingual teacher in math and English. We were thrilled when everything worked out to allow her to do so.

When she called again early last summer to ask if she could borrow some bed linens and blankets, I got the idea to make her a quilt. After all, there is nothing better that says you are loved than being wrapped in a quilt.

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I cut 3.5 inch squares of Elementary by Sweetwater for Moda and included some green and purple pops of color from the Bazaar Style Collection from Art Gallery, Burlap by Dover Hill for Benartex, and Prints Charming by Sandy Germais for Moda.

That fat quarter bundle of Elementary  by Moda that I had purchased the year before would be perfect. So I enlisted help from Emily and my daughter-in-laws to design it. We decided on a modern plus quilt. 

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We started with graph paper and colored variations of the plus quilt.

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One of my grandson’s designed this option. It’s beautiful, too.

My sister’s were involved with helping to pin and press and my mom hand embroidered the quilt label for the back.

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The living room furniture was rearranged to give more space. It took a whole day for my sister Sheila and I to lay out all 924 squares. The long handled tongs were used to reach into the middle as we arranged and rearranged until it was just right.

 

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My sister Sheila became the “Pinning Queen.” With her help, all of my seams matched perfectly!

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My sister Bonnie took care of pressing those seams.

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I did the sewing, except for one seam, when my sister Bonnie sat at the machine and said “so this is what it feels like to sew.”

But it wasn’t all work and no play. During our quilting days together, we took breaks.

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My mom and sisters and I would have tea time in the sunroom.

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If the weather cooperated, we’d have tea time outside in my gazebo. Sometimes we ate more than we worked because there was morning tea and afternoon tea with lunch in between. But somehow, the quilt was finished.

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My sister Sheila is showing us how to make pizza on the grill during one of our quilting days. It was delicious and just may be the subject of yet another post.

I sewed the quilt and rented time on a longarm so it would be done and ready to present to her when she arrived in late August.

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I let the computerized longarm do the work and quilted various sizes of circles and bound it with the ruler fabric Measure Up in Splash.

I had found the perfect backing on our 2016 Quilt Minnesota Shop Hop trip.

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This is a text fabric called Odds and Ends by Julie Comstock for Moda. It includes encouraging words and phrases such as: believe, dream, beauty, never give up, realize your potential, surrender your heart, as well as many more.

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While I had plenty of fabric for the back, I chose to add in some squares leftover from the front to give it more interest.

We were excited when the time came to see her again. She had arrived at Emily’s several days earlier so they could have some “girl time.”

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Since I know she likes to wrap herself up in the blankets, I made it big. It finished at 84″ x 99.”

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She loved it!

The semester went fast and we were so happy to be able to spend time with her again. She flew to Arizona with us after Christmas to enjoy some fun in the sun here.

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She made sure the quilt fit in her suitcase for her return trip to Germany. We are so proud of all she’s accomplished here: living in a different country and culture, learning to live with a large family, trusting us to care for her, thriving in school work, making lifelong friends, sharing her life with us, and letting us love her.

What I Learned Today:

  1. I miss having our German exchange daughter in our house.
  2. There is nothing better that says you are loved than being wrapped in a quilt. I hope Kerstin feels that love every time she uses that quilt.
  3. Germany is a long way from North Dakota or Arizona.
  4. This post was more difficult to write than I anticipated. It was hard to type looking through tears.
  5. I look really good in that picture taken nine years ago. I wonder what’s wrong with my camera now? I must need a new camera because I feel the same as I did years ago.

Question: Have you or anyone you known participated in the foreign exchange program?  Did you have a foreign exchange student in your classes in school? Tell me your story.

Linking this week to Love Laugh Quilt for Monday Making, Beth at Cooking Up Quilts for Main Crush Monday, Sew Fresh Quilts for Let’s Bee Social , Finished Or Not Friday at Busy Hands Quilt, Can I Get a Whoop, Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, and Show Off Saturday at Sew Can She. I will add the links when they come live. Some are posted on my sidebar.

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