Portrait of the Astronaut as a Young Girl


Stop me if you've heard this one. It's 6 years later, and I'm still talking about it. It's one of my favorite quilt-related stories, and one of my favorite personal brags. You see...


... the thing is that Karen Nyberg is a quilter AND an astronaut! During her time on the International Space Station back in 2014, she hand-peiced a very cool star block...



... and then invited all of us quilters everywhere to contribute our own star-themed blocks to be combined with hers into a big global community space quilt to be displayed at the 40th Annual International Quilt Festival in Houston. Although it is several years too late to participate, I strongly recommend watching the video invite that she posted.



Obviously, I could NOT pass on the opportunity to participate, and immediately got in way over my head with a super detailed, and labor-intensive plan. My idea was to use English Paper Piecing to create a portrait of Karen as a little girl looking up at the stars through a telescope.

Since the block needed to finish at 9" square, that meant really a lot of little pieces..


If you watched the video, Karen mentions zip-lock bags - I used no fewer than twelve to keep all these tiny pieces organized.


The block ended up being composed of 101 pieces.


The tiniest was the neck:


I made it through really a lot of Buffy whilst stitching:



I called this section the "Girl Zone"...

I needed a big loan....

(Nevermind. Inside joke for Tori Amos fans.)






Quite predictably, I finished this project at the last possible moment: 3am the night before I needed to get it in the mail in order to meet the deadline.

But I'm pretty happy with how it came out!


Finishing at 9" square:


As it turns out...

the project received 2,260 blocks!

They had to make 28 panels to fit them all!

How fabulous is THAT!


To my extreme delight, they chose to put my block in the main panel (of the 28)

just a few blocks over from Karen Nyberg's! (When I found this out, I pretty much screamed and ran around my apartment like a little kid.)


Here's Astronaut Nyberg at the festival with the finished piece:


Astronaut Nyberg's block is the red white and blue one in the center of the quilt, and there's mine just a few blocks to the right!


Still bragging 6 years later, obviously I'm super proud of this.





I really wish I could've gone to visit the festival, and seen all 28 panels, but sadly that just wasn't in the cards for me. Luckily, my friends Emily Klainberg and Deborah Bingham were in attendance, and were kind enough to send me some pictures! (Thanks so much you guys!!!)


The festival posted a gallery on the website of 48 of the Astronomical Blocks along with the correspondence that accompanied them. Unfortunately, that is no longer online, but here are a few of my favorites:



This one is by Ilana Spanier.  The seven points commemorate the 7 astronauts of the Columbia Space Shuttle.










This one is by Dana Saxon, PhD, it's the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram!

So cool!










This next one is by Marianne LaFarge.

I love the view of Spain!












And this one is by Jan Meredith in honour of her father who worked on instrumentation on Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.








There are so many more, I wish I could see them all and share them all.


I LOVE space exploration sooo much, and I am grateful for this opportunity to participate in some small way. I also think of this block as a thank-you letter to all the space explorers out there for doing what they do. I believe in my heart that space exploration will help drive human evolution toward a brighter future, and I can't wait to see what happens next!

Thanks again, Astronaut Nyberg for organizing this project!

And thank you for reading!

Big love!

-Reyna


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