Welcome and thanks to Jill who is guest posting today with a beautiful idea to keep friendships vibrant and close across the miles. I love this story and this idea!
Welcome to military spouse friendships, which last about as long as four years before they become “long distance friendships.” These inevitably turn into enduring relationships that survive scheduled phone calls and Skype sessions, or into fleeting friendships that you think back on wonder, “What is she up to?” You consult Facebook only to find that your old bestie now lives fairly close, but of course you never knew because you lost touch.
Most people agree that long distance relationships are very difficult to sustain. Non-romantic relationships are the hardest kind to keep alive, which is why my military spouse girlfriends and I created a travelling blanket. Here’s how it came about, how we made it, and how we keep it (and our friendships) going:
We all lived in Dayton, OH together. Our husbands were studying at the Air Force grad school at Wright Patt, and two of the four of us lived in base housing. Mutual friends introduced us, and somehow, this tenacious friendship was forged. While our husbands geeked out together over alien movies and engineer speak, we organized trips to pumpkin patches, Halloween parties, and girls’ tea. We were all in our early-mid twenties, married, with two dogs and no intention of having kids soon. This was a match made in heaven. We loved each other, and somehow, our husbands all loved hanging out with one another too! Sometimes, the Air Force brings the right people together (though it can be rare).
One day, after watching The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and realizing we would all be parting ways in six months, one of us decided we should find a way to stay connected. Jessie and Megan are both incredibly crafty and good at sewing, so I believe it was one of them who came up with the idea of sewing a quilt together. Someone else decided we should add in a journal so we could write notes to one another as we sent the quilt back and forth across the entire country.
How to Make “The Blanket”
Our traveling blanket was born. If you have a group of spouse girlfriends who you would love to do this with, the process (in non-technical terms because I can’t sew without help) was as follows:
- Have a Sewing Day. Make scones and tea, send the men out of the house, and take over the kitchen/living room. Sit together and pick out fabrics. One of the girls had an entire box of fabrics and we chose our favorite. We used pre-cut quilt squares that came in a set not unlike this. Two of the girls had sewing machines, and the four of us worked on them in a sort of assembly line. Two of us needed a lot of help, and the two who actually knew what they were doing were happy to oblige.
- Follow Typical Quilting Steps: I’ll be honest; I don’t know how to make an entire quilt. This whole thing works a lot better if at least one of the ladies in your group is a somewhat seasoned quilter and/or is crafty and can figure it out. You could also go online and attempt to learn the process.
- Divide the Work: We each sewed ¼ of the quilt, and made our own sections. The “expert” quilter of the group took the quarters that we created during our Sewing Day, and kindly sewed them all together. I’ll be honest—I don’t recall the exact portion of the quilt that I made, but if knowing which part you made is important to you, I’m sure you can make a little signature design in the area. Or, you could each create a somewhat distinct section that captures your own personality with unique colors, designs, or themes.
Once each segment is sewn together and finished off, you’ll have your blanket! If you’re the hardworking lady who sews everything together, props to you. Your friends will be so grateful…I promise.
How We Keep It Going
Pick a Schedule: We decided that since there were four of us, we would each keep the blanket for 3 months out of the year, every year. We created a pattern based on geographic location, with the blanket moving from east to west. I sent the blanket up to Massachusetts, then it would go to Utah, followed by California. When someone moves, we just change the pattern accordingly.
Get a Smash Journal: We used a journal very similar to the one linked. They have fun designs on the pages, and they’re very easy to decorate. Each time we receive the blanket (usually via a cardboard box of the appropriate size), we also get the journal. Girls have put all kinds of fun things in there, from Malibu sand in a little envelope to pictures of places they’ve gone. We don’t talk on the phone, or via Facebook, really at all. Maybe we would if we didn’t have the journal, but instead we update one another by way of this journal. It’s how we’ve learned about everything from pregnancy to new jobs to fears about the future. I still feel connected to these girls. One of them has moved close, and when I see her, I feel like I haven’t missed that much in her life!
Be Diligent: Don’t forget to send the blanket when your time is due. If one person hoards it, it loses all the fun and purpose. I also recommend being diligent about washing it if it starts to smell a little funky. I don’t think any of us have washed the quilt (maybe I’m wrong)…and that probably wasn’t the best idea since we all have dogs who sit on it!
I hope all of you enjoy this fun way to keep things going in your military spouse friendships. Get started while you’re still together, and you’ll have one incredible excuse to stay in touch moving forward. As they say, “It’s a small [Insert branch of the military here].” You might see each other again sooner than you think—so I think it’s worth keeping the “flame” alive.