“Friends” (Operation Christmas Child Blanket #3)

It’s packing and shipping time for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes! I really wish I had brought this up earlier, just in case anyone else’s wheels needed greasing to get rolling.

I say that because my wheels needed exactly that.

I had not *planned* on sewing a blanket for a shoebox this year. But a friend innocently nudged me in a different direction when, during an announcement at church about an Operation Christmas Child packing party, she tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Are you making a blanket?” I whispered back, “Not this year…” but then couldn’t stop thinking about another sweet blanket.

The thing is, it is SO MUCH FUN to give these little gifts. (I first made a shoebox blanket, “The Christmas Rainbow,” in 2016. In 2017 I made another, “Wacky Pockets,” simultaneously offering to folks on my email list a free course in how to make one if they’d commit to packing a shoebox too. In 2018 I sent a shoebox but no blanket.)

So two Sundays ago I went home from church considering how I could simplify the process in order to get a child-size blanket put together quickly. I decided to:

  • Use leftover strips, already cut (using only thin wools so the blanket can fit in a shoebox)
  • Use leftover binding from another project
  • Keep the pattern simple

It was a very good plan. Until I sabotaged swiftness by messing around with too many color drafts before finally settling on a likeable combo. But it’s done! And I had a lot of fun.

I chose the 5-9-year-old girl category. As I sewed, I thought about how important it can be to a girl to have a friend. And not just any friend, but a kind and understanding one. The blanket itself reminds me of those half-heart necklaces that fit together like a puzzle: its two halves quietly reflect each other, each with their pink-and-purple “pop” (the pocket, the “V” of a sweater), and the halves are clearly delineated by the skinny strip of pink stripe between them.

When shopping for additional shoebox items, I found these two little dolls. They are 1) just right for the size of the box, 2) just right for the colorful blanket, and 3) just right for a friendship. Here they are, testing what will be their cushy accommodations for the next several weeks until they arrive at their destination.*

Each time I pack a shoebox, I think of two particular children. They are actually adults now; a family we know adopted them from an orphanage in Russia many years ago. Four years before their adoption, while living in that orphanage, Marina and her older brother received Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. In Marina’s words, “The box gave me hope that there is kindness out there, there is love out there, and that I could have it. And I did have it…in a simple box!” Click below to see her tell the story:

This whole shoebox endeavor reminds me of the starfish story—attributed, I believe, to Loren Eiseley and adapted many times over—that goes something like this:

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…” I made a difference for that one.”

*P.S. Did you know you can “follow your box” when you purchase your label online? “The Christmas Rainbow” went to a girl in Zambia. “Wacky Pockets” went to a boy in Rwanda.

Where will this one go??

The Mouse Hole

Remember those clever mice who helped Cinderella sew her ballgown? I’m not Cinderella and I haven’t been working on a gown, but I too was recently charmed by the help of a small creature on a sewing project.

A devoted client asked if I could repair her grandson’s blanket. “He’s like a little mouse!” she said. “He nibbles all around the edges!” Indeed, I found and darned many tiny holes in his Mickey Mouse blanket. (This mouse theme, so apt.)

Here’s the original blanket, below, back when I just finished it nearly 4 years ago. You can find the story of it here.

But there weren’t only tiny holes; there was one large hole chewed/torn in the stretchy black striped border. For that hole I needed a better solution than darning.

Here’s the gap, about 1″ in diameter. I took this photo just after I made a simple, loose backstitch around the hole’s circumference to stabilize the edges and keep it from stretching larger.

The day she dropped off the blanket, my client threw out some great ideas for covering this bigger hole: “How about a band-aid appliqué?” I love it! And yet I could not get the picture of a nibbling mouse out of my head. I thought it would be sweet to give Mickey some company. So I sketched out a few critters and settled on one.

I traced the drawing onto fusible web, then realized the sewn-in label right next to the hole in the blanket would not allow for the “high alert” tail. I drew a more relaxed version that would fit.

For scale, here’s the little mouse, looking at the hole he’s about to assist in the repair of. He’ll be flipped the other direction for the actual application.

I chose a tan fabric for him that blends with the already-existing colors in the blanket but doesn’t match them completely, in order to honor his own, Johnny-come-lately, disposition. After top-stiching detail onto him, I ironed him into place and pinned a black backing fabric to the patching area so the hole would be covered from both sides.

Here he is after the zig-zagged application:

And here’s the reverse side:

I trimmed off the extra black fabric from the back for this final shape. The silhouette blends in nicely and will keep that hole completely covered.

It’s entirely possible this may not be the laaast repair of this blanket.

Maybe I need to be ready with some extra appliqués…
a band-aid,
a chunk of cheese,
a mouse trap?

(Just kidding.)

Anyway, here are the new buddies, ready to get back to Theo’s house where they’ll be well-loved some more.

Greta’s Blanket: A Girl and a Pearl

Our second granddaughter turned 1 last month. In the weeks leading up to her birthday—and with (coincidentally!) a visit cross-country to her family for that very date—I knew what time it was.

Time to make Greta her very own blanket.

As was true for our first granddaughter, I had to wait to know this little one awhile before attempting to create a blanket for her. (Her sister Miriam’s blanket is here.) Blankets always begin with mulling over ideas, images, sensations. And so it was with Greta’s.

My inspiration for Greta’s blanket began first of all with her smile. It is big, bold, ebullent and endearing. Most stunning of all, it appears immediately when a loved one enters her line of sight.

Next was her name: Greta, a short form of Margarethe or Margaret. It means “pearl.” The Bible talks about the pearl of great price, and I knew this was one reason her parents had chosen the name.

Next: what colors look good on her. This girl has her dad’s features and her mom’s coloring—blue eyes and light hair that’s already showing the red glints of her mama’s copper-colored hair. I automatically started turning over in my mind the greens and goldens that her mom looks great in. But when I pulled up the family photo stream just to check, I was surprised to find Greta is in her niche in bright pink and navy. Apparently her skin tone is cooler than her mom’s!

Once supplied with several thoughts to get the project rolling, I found the right colors in my stash and got started.

The color arrangement came together easily. And I knew I wanted to put a pearl in the center somewhere, but where and how? As I played with different ideas, and especially with oyster sketches, I discovered something very close to a “G” for Greta in the upside-down opened oyster. What better than a sweet cipher right there in the middle of her blanket?

And so it all came together. I finished in time for our trip, and Grandpa and I were able celebrate  that amazing first birthday in person. (And eat scrumptious homemade birthday cake!)

The following note accompanied the blanket. It’s for later, when Greta’s language skills are a little stronger and this precious girl begins to mull over the things of life herself:

Sweet Greta,

You are a little small for some of the symbolism in this blanket, but your name is so wonderful it couldn’t help but show up here. Your name, Greta, means pearl. Your dada and mama told us when you were born that their prayer is you would come upon the MOST precious, valuable pearl—that’s Jesus!—and want to know him more than anything else.

So there, in the middle of your blanket, is a pearl in an oyster. And if you turn that oyster upside down, there’s a secret “G” for Greta.

We love you more than words can say, Greta, and pray this same prayer for you. Happy first birthday!

© Joan Olson
“Greta’s Blanket” (35″x36″) 
Felted Wool Sweaters

“Jonathon’s Bear”

JUNE. Spring turns to summer and school is out. Gardens shoot forth new growth where there was none. There are graduations and weddings and births. And so much celebrating!

So much NEW.

I deem it an entirely appropriate time to share a new baby blanket.

This one’s for a little guy who is still on his way. When he arrives, among the many loving arms awaiting him will be those of a particularly playful roly-poly polar bear cub.

For the record, cubs think waiting is hard.

Writing this made me think of Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne and a poem (of course!). Here is the last stanza of Milne’s “Us Two.”

So wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
There’s always Pooh and Me.
“What would I do?” I said to Pooh,
“If it wasn’t for you,” and Pooh said: “True,
It isn’t much fun for One, but Two,
Can stick together, says Pooh, says he. “That’s how it is,” says Pooh.

Jonathon, may your life be full of people friends, animal friends, and some toy friends too.

They’re all terrific.

“Jonathon’s Bear”
38″ x 39″
This blanket has gone to a good home.

 

“Dory Finds a Pearl”

[Life has been full lately, and the fanciful world in which I am a prompt blogger is truly just imaginary. I actually finished this blanket in November and finally put together the photos. Better than photos though? I wish I could hand you this blanket to hold in your arms. It’s luscious!]

Faithful Green Sheep collector, supporter and Disney-devotee Gloria welcomed her new granddaughter Margaux last year. Margaux is French for “pearl,” and since she arrived in the year “Finding Dory” was released, it was a natural to pair Dory with a little pearl for this blanket. (This is actually the 12th Green Sheep blanket for this family! See their other Disney-related ones here and here.)

I decided to keep the water in true water colors and added movement with the diagonal stripes. For femininity, I included the lacy pieces of the green sweater and used pink for the border and in the oyster. I love that the blanket did come out with such a feminine feel! I also made this blanket large enough for a young child, so it can grow with her. (In fact, this blanket became the pattern I used for the Operation Christmas Child shoebox I packed last Christmas. The blanket measures larger than 3′ x 4′ and yet still rolls up and leaves room for lots of other goodies in the shoebox. More about that blanket here and here.)

Little Margaux, may you find lots of pleasure in using this soft, warm blanket over the years. And just as Dory, out and about on her adventures, happened upon the treasure of a precious pearl, I imagine you also will discover many fine pearls in life. And yet! There is one whose value is greater than them all (Matthew 13:45-46). Seek until you find, girl!

“Dory Finds a Pearl” (40″ x 49″)
This blanket has already gone to a good home.

“Family”

Little Nora was born this week. In old-school style, her parents decided not to learn her sex ahead of time. She, with emphasis on the gender, was a true surprise to them.

In line with that, I got to make a blanket that could work either way, for a boy or for a girl—another fun challenge in my blanket-making adventures.

Each parent had items to contribute (faithfully preserved by their moms), so we’ve got pieces of mama Lauren’s and papa James’ baby blankets (three of them) and a spectacular spaceship T-shirt here.

In a very special addition, Uncle Jon has a piece of himself here too. Marine Lance Cpl Jonathan Collins, older brother of Lauren, was killed in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006 at the age of 19. He is a deeply beloved hero, and his family and our community meaningfully keep his memory and the memory of his sacrifice alive. Patches of Jon’s fatigues are part of this blanket, so little Nora can touch and love her wider family. As she grows she will learn the impact of all of her family members on her life.

(Yoo-hoo! You out there in your 50s too: is this the sort of stuff you ponder regularly?? The reach of generations and family web fascinates me with its breadth and impact.)

It wasn’t until I was laying the pieces out that I noticed a slice of the fatigues had “USMC” and the Marine corp symbol just along the edge. I’m glad it made it in —

It was a pleasure to make this blanket, commissioned by a childhood best friend of Nora’s maternal grandmother. See? More far-reaching impact of family and all who love them :).

Welcome, little Nora, to your dear tribe.
May you discover the wonders of it throughout your entire life.

“Family” (42″ x 41″)
This blanket has already gone to a good home

[Memorial Day is around the corner. Take time to remember and honor veterans young and old, especially those who have made an ultimate sacrifice. We really are in this all together.]