An Unplanned Quilt Story and Kaffe Fassett Fabric Giveaway

Quilt photos by Jonathan D. Lopez

Quilt photos by Jonathan D. Lopez

By Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood

Deadlines inspire me. So does the feeling of gratitude that washes over me like a gentle wave every time something goes wrong and I know that it could have been so much worse.

Last Friday I had just finished recording a podcast interview when my mom called from the Detroit hospital where I was born to tell me that my dad had just completed a stress test that revealed the need for an urgent surgery to clear critical blockage in multiple arteries leading to his heart.

This kind of news is sad when you hear about other people’s families dealing with it, but when it’s your family – your dad – it hits on a whole other completely surreal level.

By the time I threw some clothes in a bag and made the 2.5-hour drive from my home in suburban Grand Rapids, he had already gone into surgery. I was too late. My sisters met me outside the hospital and told me the chief of the cardiac department took my dad’s case – something that simultaneously alarmed and reassured us._jdl6130_1

It must be bad… but at least we got the best guy.

The next several hours were spent in a suspended reality where a stranger and his medical team were in control. What they found and how well they performed was going to determine the next chapter for my family.

We were told the surgery could last anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. About two hours later, the doctor came out and told us the blockage was more severe than expected but Dad was OK.

He lived.

“Thank you” seems like such an understatement in situations like this, but my mom, sisters and I said it repeatedly before he rushed off to do whatever it is surgeons do after saving a life.

Last Friday – that day that could have gone horribly wrong and didn’t – was the day I had planned to start sewing a quilt out of Kaffe Fassett’s new Artisan fabric line for this blog post. My plan was to make a quilt incorporating as many of the ideas sent in by blog readers as possible. But when I arrived back home, my perspective had changed and I realized that I needed to honor the feelings of uncertainty and worry as part of my process. I just needed to sew.


Life is so unpredictable and sometimes it’s really unsettling to not know what is going to happen next. So I made a quilt to document this. I picked out about a dozen prints from the box sent to me several weeks ago and got to work.

I started with a fussy cut, square floral print and built the quilt out from the center, adding borders of varying widths. Still a bit anxious and worried about all the things in life I can’t control, I surrendered to the process when I could not sleep and watched almost the entire fifth season of “Longmire,” while sewing this quilt top in one continuous, binge-quilting session.

I just kept cutting strips, and adding them to the growing square, pressing seams open on the back. I was exhausted when I finished sewing the last round and really happy that I had thrown myself into this quilting project. I did not have to think, I just trusted Kaffe’s color genius and boldly combined colors like I was applying to be his next studio assistant.

_jdl6146_1For obvious reasons I’m now extremely fond of Kaffe’s new fabric collection that inspired me to create the boldest quilt I’ve ever made, one that looks perfectly at home hanging over a branch below a canopy of green in one of my favorite parks. This lightly quilted square throw will serve as my reminder that:
* Days that could be the worst sometimes turn out to be some of the best ever.
* “I love you,” isn’t a phrase to throw down only when we’re scared. If you feel it, say it – often.
* When bad things happen, everyone wants to know what’s going on – even nosey people who aren’t invested in your life and really don’t care. Don’t let this reality rattle your cage.
* Friendship is necessary. Accept the help friends offer and ask for additional support if you need it.
* Gratitude is one of the best feelings ever and it’s often enough to wash away fear and anxiety about what will happen next.

img_0688A special thanks to Nancy Jewell of Westminster Fibers, Inc. for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Making a quilt on deadline out of beautiful fabric has calmed my frazzled nerves once again and I’m so very grateful.

Find basic directions to make a similar quilt, on page 150 of “Kaffe Fassett’s Bold Blooms,” (224 pages, $35). 

img_0682ENTER TO WIN FABRIC: Two winners will be selected, one for the jelly roll and another for the stack of fat quarters pictured. Comment below about your best day that could have gone wrong but didn’t to enter the drawing. Those who already posted comments on my previous post about this blog tour will be automatically entered into this drawing. A winner will be selected next Friday at noon EST. Good luck, everybody!

*** UPDATE: Thanks to all the lovely people who posted inspiring comments below. I really enjoyed reading them all. Your stories are great reminders that life is precious and the journey is so wild, unpredictable and beautiful. The winner of the fat quarter stack is Duffy Morrison. Congrats Duffy! The winner of the jelly roll is Mark Richardson, who entered the contest on my previous post. Congrats to you both!

Be sure to check out the whole blog tour listed below for more chances to win lovely fabric. : )

9/23/16 – Simple Simon and Company

9/30/16 – CraftSanity (Yay!)

10/7/16 – 100 Billion Stars

10-14-16 – Bijou Lovely Designs

10-21-16 – Mrs. Schmenkman Quilts

Oct. 28 – Confessions of a Fabric Addict

Nov. 4 – Sarah Fielke

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60 Responses

  1. Denise W says:

    My heart was so sad as I was reading your note, and then felt your joy when your father made it through the surgery and is living. I guess my closest near-miss was when I was actually a small child and my family was in a car accident. I was standing on the front seat as my mother was putting on my pajamas ( yes, this was the early 50’s and we did not have all the safety features!). She saw what was happening, pulled my legs out from under me, and I narrowly missed going through the windshield. So much of life could have changed at that moment. Use your creativity to help yourself and your family to enjoy life. Thanks for sharing

  2. Sally Chrisman says:

    I’m so glad that your father made it through his surgery. A long rehab, but based on my husbands, once done, he felt like a new person – I guess because the blood was finally flowing freely The day that things could have gone wrong but didn’t are many in my life – his heart surgery, my grandson’s heart surgery at 4 years old (a thriving 12 year old now!), my knee replacement – the list is long. But aside from the health issues, I think of a work-related situation, where I was fed up and ready to “box it up” as the commercial said – but instead, my point was finally taken seriously and I ended up with a better situation – job, office, money. Don’t have many days like that!

  3. Dawn says:

    When I was young, we had a fire start in our garage late at night while we were all sleeping. Our neighbor noticed smoke coming out of the garage door and rang our doorbell until we woke up. The fire got put out and everyone was safe. My parents were never so thankful until that day that we had a detached garage!

  4. Paula says:

    Pessimist that I am, I feel like that every day … but I get into bed every night, grateful to be there and that my family is safe. I’m so glad your father is on his way to recovery!

  5. Vickie VanDyken says:

    I’m glad your Dad is going to be OK. In July my hubby was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer that had gone into his bones and his hip was broken in 3 places. Talk about heart stopping. My husband has always been tough….I just didn’t realize how tough he was!! I think it was a wakeup call from God for him to slow down.
    He has had all his treatment and is back to work, long haul truck driving, so I have a happy ending. The cancer is being controlled. I pray every day that his hip is healing and the cancer goes/stays away.
    It certainly was an eye opener. I am retired so he is our source of income. scary and I wasn’t ready for it!! I suspect no one ever is.
    Our story, although still unfolding, is going well.
    Thanks for the chance to vent! Love your quilt. I just finished a simple Kaffe quilt, placing rainbow colored charm squares on top of a Kaffe layer cake. quartering the blocks, sewing them back into squares and putting them together with a 1″ Kona Black sashing. Love it!! Simple and fun :)
    Thanks again and glad to know your Dad is doing well.

  6. Carol C says:

    There are so many days that could have gone so wrong but didn’t and they are mostly health related. Sick babies are the worst, but thankfully our own sons are long past those issues. Now we get to worry about grandchildren! My husband recently had emergency surgery for a bowel obstruction and during the (successful) operation, the surgeon noticed an aortic aneurysm that could have been fatal at any time. His heart surgery was also successful and he is recovering from both surgeries. It’s been a difficult summer.

  7. DeborahGun says:

    Wow, I am so glad your Dad is okay – days like that certainly make us more thankful. I haven’t experienced anything so dramatic, but have had some pretty near misses in the car, and they have made me more grateful for life. I love your quilt – it is bold and bright and gorgeous.

  8. Sandra Miller Pitts says:

    Oh my your story touches my memory. My father and his very serious heart problems. Fifteen years of frequent near misses. The relief, and grateful feelings that you are flooded with every time the outcome was good. He was my Dad, my mentor, my best friend, always there when I needed him and those times he needed me. When I think of the final time my memory is of a room full of family, love and the smell of his garden roses. I always smile with this memory because my father died with the dignity and love he lived with. Thank you for reminding me of my blessing. Your quilt is beautiful. The colors reflect the joy you must have been feeling.

  9. Linda K Minaga says:

    Our world spins around and often throws us for a loop. Grounding oneself with contemplative distraction can rejuvenate our spirits and soul allowing our body and soul to be healed.

  1. October 19, 2016

    […] Thank you all for your lovely suggestions! Read the post about the quilt I made here. The comment by Mark Richardson was selected as the winner of a Kaffe Fassett jelly roll. Congrats […]

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