Loretta’s boxer quilts … a labor of love!


Knew when I heard about the two generously-sized twin quilts my friend, the lovely Loretta, was making for her boys, it would be the perfect subject for this blog. I mean … who doesn’t want to read about quilts made from cotton boxer shorts? It was clear to me it was a labor of love. I had to know more.

But before we get to the boxer quilts … a little background. I met Loretta when we were in a Quilt Bee together for a bunch of happy years. This lady has some serious quilting skills. Sadly for me … two years ago she moved to the Texas Panhandle. At least we have been able to tag up once a year in the fall during the International Quilt Festival in Houston. I savor my “Loretta” face time!

So recently I did a little phone interview for this blog and also some catching up with the awesome Loretta. I learned that Loretta’s grandmother was a serious scrap quilter. When Loretta was a teenager, her grandmother asked Loretta’s mother, and four sisters, for scraps to make quilts for all her grandchildren. One of the 15 lucky recipients, Loretta’s quilt was made with soft colors and triangles and also handquilted. What a treasure to own such a quilt by a beloved family member.

Loretta has sewn since she was a teenager but didn’t learn to quilt until her first-born, Bethany, was 9 months old. That was when she took a 12-week beginning quilting class on Monday nights. Loretta cherished those Monday nights which fed her creativity and started a lifetime love of quilting. Each student made a sampler quilt with 36 blocks. Loretta used fabric colors popular in the 80’s … blues and pinks. The teacher taught such skills as rotary cutting, template making and applique. Loretta still has the quilt.

Fast forward a bunch of years and the addition of two sons! The concept of the boxer quilts got to be a joke with her boys. Loretta’s husband, Jim, used to tease the boys that their boxer shorts were on loan to them. They would someday see them in their mother’s fabric stash.

I loved the boxer quilt concept and the story behind the quilt! For quilters … inspiration can come from lots of places. I’ve seen quilts made from all kinds of things. Why not cotton boxer shorts?

Tyler and Matthew received colorful cotton boxers each Christmas from the time the boys started middle school. Both are now graduates from The University of Texas at Austin so that accounts for the plentiful supply! After the cotton boxers were replaced with new ones, Loretta cut the elastic off the top and took them apart making manageable blocks. Did you know you can get two nice sized pieces of fabric out of one pair of boxer shorts? After cleaning, starching and ironing, the soft cotton fabric called a very large plastic bin home for a number of years.

One of Matthew’s college friends even got into the act. Patrick donated a pair of St. Patrick’s Day boxer shorts when he heard about the project. See if you can pick out the clovers in the quilt photographs!

Tyler’s quilt was made into the “T” block pattern and measures 72 inches by 102 inches. Each block is 6 inches square. I LOVE this quilt! Oh … and did you notice a big friendly dog in some of the photos? That is Colt. Not sure … but I believe it is Tyler’s dog. Colt is often Loretta’s happy companion in her sewing room.

“He does like to spend time with me in my sewing room. I’m sure he would be a quilter … if he only had thumbs,” Loretta told me.

Matthew’s quilt is the traditional Monkey Wrench pattern, but it is also called Hole in the Barn Door. It also measures 72 inches by 102 inches. There are 36 twelve-inch blocks and 60 six-inch blocks in Matthew’s quilt. I love how Loretta made the block sizes on Matthew’s quilt two different sizes. She thought the block pattern needed the size variation. So visually appealing with all the scrappy boxer fabric!

Oh … so Loretta told me this funny story. Tyler had a pair of “good luck” boxers. They were green with white pokadots. He always wore them, even when they got a tad tight, on the first day of school. It was his insurance policy so he would get good teachers!

The two finished quilts were professionally quilted by my favorite longarm lady, Kim Norton. She used a burnt orange thread and longarm quilt pattern. Perfect for these UT graduates!

Loretta hasn’t officially let loose of the boxer quilts. We quilters bond with our quilts. Sometimes it takes a while to separate from our babies! They are currently laying across twin beds in her guest room.

“The quilts have to live with me for awhile,” she told me.

I can totally relate!

A cancer journey – new scan results!


Last week Rick had his three-month scan extravaganza. It seems like years (it has only been 20 months) since I wheeled a very sick husband through MDA’s automatic doors. It is probably why before backing out of the driveway, I asked Rick if he still remembered his patient number. The seven-digit number is asked multiple times by MDA personnel before testing. Yep, like our social security numbers, these digits are forever embeded in both our brains.

Rick just completed six months of observation without any medication. Previously, he had a couple of different types chemo pills which were a disaster. And before that months of immunotherapy. Testing and results this time around were going to be a very big deal.

So on Friday there was a bone scan, bloodwork (I lovingly call “bloodletting”), CT and a mega-MRI scans. I highly recommend having scans on Friday. Everything went so smoothly, in about 6 a.m. and out by 4 p.m. That was probably the shortest scan day in our history. We were both pinching ourselves. We even had time to catch a quick bite to eat at the Rotary House’s restaurant between the CT and MRI scan.

And today we received Rick’s stunning scan results from our favorite oncologist, Dr. Campbell. All the scans are the same as three months ago … stable. His lipase was even normal. Thank you Jesus and MD Anderson. We talked a lot about the trial he had been on. The reflection was good for our soul. This immunotherapy stuff has only been around seriously since 2012. I think it all started with treating Melonoma patients. Rick started on his Immunotherapy Trial for Clear Cell Kidney Cancer in early 2016. Since then, his trial has expanded from 60 patients to 105. That is because patients were doing so well. Rick’s combination of two drugs have a 58% positive response rate. The one drug has a 42% positive response rate. Dr. Campbell indicated they will have all their slots full on the trial by the end of the year for the 105 patients. These positive results bode well for future Clear Cell Kidney Cancer patients.

Dr. Campbell told us that they are expanding the types of cancers that receive immunotherapy ALL THE TIME. There are also new drugs being developed ALL THE TIME. He also said they have learned that some of the old drugs may not hold cancer at bay forever. Some of the drugs are doing very well. The good news is that patients, like Rick, who respond well to immunotherapy have a great chance that if cancer does return there will be lots more new treatment options to chose from.

We go back for scans in three months. If that visit is stable … four month scans.

Quilter’s Patch – September block finished on time!


September’s Quilter’s Patch block-of-the-month assignment, the Greenhouse Block, was finished in plenty of time before the October block hits my mailbox. Geez … I haven’t been this “caught up” since January! It was the perfect block to work on when horrible Hurricane Harvey decided to pay our Texas Gulf Coast a visit. Plenty of hand applique was involved attaching each clamshell shingle bottom edge to the roof. If you have yet to work on this block, Edyta’s tip to use interfacing as a stabilizer made my life so much easier. I found a lightweight black interfacing which really worked well with the dark fabric used for the shingles.

Looking ahead to the finished quilt top … I’ve decided not to add the borders on my quilt top. I like to hang my quilts and change them out seasonally. The quilt, as featured, will be just too large to hang in my house. I’ll add narrow borders … perhaps piece the watering can … it is adorable … and add it to the back with a butterfly.

Next month … a sunflower block!

Quilter’s Patch – August block was tough!


The Hollyhock Block was the only block assigned for August. Thank you Edyta! It is also oversized at 12-1/2″ by 24-1/2″ length-wise … twice as large in length as the previous blocks for January through July. The tricky part about this block was making the three full circle blooms of the block meet at the seams. In a couple of spots, I was off. I have to admit one of the circles looked more like a blob than a circle. So it came to me in a dream on how to make the blooms appear to meet. After the block was pieced, I zigzagged with a generous zigzag around the block and managed to create the illusion of the seams meeting. At least my blooms don’t look like a monster from a horror movie.

September’s block arrived a few days after Hurricane Harvey departed our area. It is the Greenhouse Block. I’ve read the directions on how to piece the clamshell roof. Geez! If I can make it past September, I will be home free!

Thank you Edyta Sitar, designer of this beautiful quilt for challenging me.

P.S. – excuse the poor quality of some of my photographs. The “darkish” photos are taken with my Stone Age camera. I used hubby’s cell phone camera when I could catch him home. Our cell phones take the best photos. Unfortunately, mine won’t let me email them to myself. I know … it is probably something I am doing … or not doing! This morning I am off to the Genius Bar to see if they can sort it all out.

Quilter’s Patch – July blocks are history!


The two July blocks are history and clearly ate my lunch! First was the Sweet Pea block which contained over 70 pieces for the 12-1/2″ block. The “leaves” were paper pieced and easy peasy. I love the accuracy of paper piecing. The only thing that bothered me about this block is the top blooms do not meet with the stem. I thought it was me but when I checked the photo in the book … yep … those top blooms do not meet either. I thought about taking the top row apart and re-doing it … not gonna happen … at least not now. Maybe before I put all the blocks together.

The second was the Bachelor Button block which contained lots of set-in seams in the blossom part of the block. This was a first for me. Even with great directions, it was not a pleasant experience. I have to say my third blossom looks so much better than the first … so I have that going for me. Also, it was difficult to get the blooms to lie flat. As a result, the blooms want to crinkle. Not sure that is the look the author was going for … but I am. The whole time I was piecing this one block, I kept telling myself … no way I’d do a whole quilt with set-in seams. Not me. The “leaves” on this block were super easy since half square triangle paper was provided to copy from the book. For most of us, piecing triangles are to be avoided at all costs. Thankfully, the triangle paper provided made the work so easy to an accurate little 2-1/4″ block.

Looking ahead to the current month … we have just one block for August. Do I hear an “amen?” It is the Hollyhock block and is the largest so far … 12-1/2″ by 24-1/2″. Pretty pink blooms dominate this block. Looks tedious with lots of curves. Prediction … this one is destined to be finished well in September.

A cancer journey – scan results revealed


Time for my monthly update on how Rick is fighting stage IV kidney cancer. For so many months, we both have felt like we’ve been in the middle of a boxing ring fighting the good fight. Like Rocky Balboa, Rick has been right smack in the middle of the prize fight for his life with a huge guy throwing gut punches. I’m the one, between rounds, throwing water on him, squirting water in his mouth, and asking him to spit. I like to think I am way cuter than Burgess Meredith, who played his trainer!

This past Friday, Rick had a variety of scans. It was part of our “every two month” check-the-dude-inside-and-out during his “active surveillance” status. We have come to the point of just watching the remnants of little spots of cancer. This has created anxiety for me. Rick … he has moved on down the road of cancer. I don’t know how he does that.

So I decided we both needed a little break … maybe me more than him … so instead of heading home on Friday, Mimi stayed at the respite house, and Lulu reluctantly was boarded. I booked a room at the Hotel ZaZa down the street from the medical center. First time for us and what a cool place. They have a free shuttle that will drop off and pick up within five miles of the hotel, including the medical center. When I booked the room, I mentioned something about spending the day at MDA for testing and was offered a “medical rate.” It was very generous! Upon check-in, we were also upgraded to a suite. We had a lovely dinner that night and breakfast the next morning in their Monarch Restaurant. I recommend the Blackberry Margarita on the rocks, no salt. This was totally what we needed. One night of relaxation … in a cool atmosphere! I could write a whole post on this place.

Fast forward to yesterday. Rick had his last scan … a brain scan. It was a test they couldn’t do on Friday. Rick continues to wonder why he has to have a brain scan. He will be the first to admit, “there isn’t anything up there,” although I know differently. At lunchtime, we met with Dr. Campbell, Rick’s oncologist, that has been calling the shots since we started early last year.

In a peanut shell, he told us no cancer in the brain. CT and MRI scans show all cancer is stable. Essentially, what spots are left are either dead or the same size. The drugs from the immunotherapy clinical trial Rick was kicked off in January is probably still working and may continue for a very long time. One of the symptoms of the infusion drug continuing to work is itching, from the inside, and that is still happening.

Then Dr. Campbell dropped the big news. We will now be having scans every three MONTHS and seeing him every 3 MONTHS. Although Rick is still considered in treatment, we feel like we won the fifth round of a 10 round championship fight. God is good … all the time!

Texas/Louisiana Row by Row Quilt … 2015 version is done!


So today is the official start of the “Row by Row Experience” quilt season. I know … I’ve just lost a bunch of you! So let me explain. I believe the concept started with 20 shops in 2011. This year there are over 3,000 shops participating. I fell in love with the whole notion in 2014. Each year, participating quilt shops from all over the United States, and way beyond … think Canada and Europe … create a free row pattern … and fabrics for the row which you can purchase if you like. But you have to visit the actual shop … which … if you are road tripping this summer anyway … why not! Their website has maps for shop locations and photos of the rows so you can plan your route. I’m pretty picky about the shops I visit. They gotta have a row I wanna actually include in a quilt!

The theme this year is “On the Go” and interpretation by quilt shops is all their show. New this year is a “junior” division for youngsters. Not all shops are participating but this is so cool for youngsters interested in quilting! So eight rows sewed into a quilt makes for an official “Row by Row” quilt. There are also prizes involved if you stitch up 8 rows, quilt it and don’t forget to bind it. It has to be finished! Be the first to bring it into a quilt shop that participates in the project. I’m not so interested in that part. I just love the creativity of the project … and I’m slow!

The great thing about row by row quilts is friends and family that live far will sometimes acquire a row for you! I’ve already made my list of favorite rows and the Houston area has several I am considering to visit.

So let’s chat about this 2015 quilt. My adorable sister, Gretchen, who lives near Victoria, Texas picked up a row. My quilting friend, Michelle, picked up the two lovely rows in Louisiana. Then there was the ever awesome Sally. She and her husband did a row by row road trip and came back with the loveliest of rows. Of course, I put my order in beforehand and wouldn’t have found myself near Bandera, but for Sally!

So on to this just completed row by row for 2015. The theme for 2015 was “water.” Hence, umbrellas, fish, and seagulls, etc. I have a spot for it all picked out! I like to hang my quilts, so I made this one using 5 rows on the front and 3 on the back. Eight horizontal rows just makes for a very long quilt.

Sadly, since I have worked on this quilt for so long, I can’t locate all the photos I took while piecing the rows. Darn! I gotta remember to be more organized when I get around to the 2016 quilt.

So the great thing about this whole project is the skills you acquire while making each row. The row with the seagull and lighthouse from Louisiana was the most challenging. Small fabric pieces on the gull almost made me have to go to confession, but I LOVE how it turned out. Persistence paid off! Basically, each row is a mini-quilt with lots of lessons learned during the piecing. The easiest row was, by far, from Quilter’s Crossing in Tomball which, by the way, has a lovely quilt shop. The umbrellas were all pre-cut with the fusible on the back. Obviously, I did this row first!

Since my favorite long-arm lady moved away … come back soon Kim Norton … I had the lovely Taylor at Cupcake Quilts do an all-over design called “Sailboats.” She used Hobbs batting 80/20 and variegated thread called Signature 99151. I always use our local Personalize It Kingwood, store owner Tracey is awesome, to make my patch on the back.

If you are a quilter and considering participating in the Row by Row Experience … happy travels!