Tag: quilts

A Handmade Christmas

Seems  like it was 3 years ago, yet the calendar say it was a mere 3 weeks ago when the family gathered together for a week of hilarity, memory making, and opening. Last year I stole minutes here and there from The 70273 Project to make some gifts for giving.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care . . .

When Mom was a baby, her mother took her to visit one of her grandmothers. Mother reached down and grabbed a tiny fistful of the lace collar on her grandmother’s blouse. “This baby is gonna’ like pretty things,” the grandmother correctly predicted, so Mother’s stocking was made with flowers to reflect her flourishing green thumb and topped with lace.

My daughter-in-law, Marnie, is an art historian who enjoys art that’s so old it makes my head hurt. Before our trip to see The Bayeux Tapestry several years ago, Marnie gave me enough background information that I should’ve gotten college credit hours. Her stocking was topped with embroidered trim depicting a section of The Bayeux Tapestry.

When my daughter was born, I took her stocking to the hospital with me and added the last element – her name  – after she was born and before we brought her home.

Fourteen months later, I did the same thing with my son’s stocking, taking it to the hospital to add his name once we knew whether we were the proud parents of a girl or a boy.

The Engineer’s grandmother, we called her Maw – made a quilt of old suits once worn by The Engineer’s grandfather, Pops. Though I could’ve repaired the quilt, I chose to make The Engineer a stocking from it.

Calder Ray celebrated his first Christmas in 2016. I used colors from Alexander Calder’s artist palette to make the fabric for my grandson’s stocking, cuffing it with some wool fabric from Ireland, and Calder Ray did just what you’d expect a seven month old to do: he chewed on it.

Remember I told you how Marnie likes ancient art and how knowledgeable and enamored she is with The Bayeux Tapestry? Well, this year I put the quilting frame down and picked up the wool to do a needlepoint canvas of one of the scenes from The Bayeux Tapestry. After finishing  it, I could not decide what to do with it. Should I frame it?  They don’t really have that many available walls, so maybe not. Make a pillow? That would mean cording, and I am not good at cording, so no. When I spied the adorable little stool with the hinged lid in the antique store, I knew what to do, so now Marnie has a footstool, covered with a needlepoint scene from The Bayeux Tapestry and a wee little bit of storage space to boot. (I just hope their new, rambunctious Border Collie, Harper, who has a hankering for gnawing on wooden furniture, never discovers the wood underneath the needlepoint.)

With visions of not sugarplums, but with dreams of a ritual of the quilt being pulled out every December 1 and slept under till the New Year, I made Calder Ray his Christmas quilt, not to hang on the wall, but to use. I’ll show you better, fuller photos later when I’m finished quilting it (Yes, I gifted it to him partly quilted and partly basted) so you can see that branches and needles of the red tree (I’ll explain the red later, too) are in the shape of my hands, and the trunk is in the shape of Calder Ray’s feet.

The body of the angel that perches at the top of the red tree is made of drawings of Calder Ray’s feet, and her wings are made from drawings of Calder Ray’s pudgy, recently-discovered 7-month old hands. Her raiments are from a napkin The Engineer found for me in a local thrift shop.

You know, 4.5 decades ago, I made everybody’s Christmas gifts as a matter of economy – as newlyweds, we didn’t have money to spend buying a lot of presents – and I remember getting a note from my sister-in-law saying that she felt like the lucky one because while The Engineer bought his brother a nice gift, hers was handmade. Her words didn’t really mean all that much then, but now, when I snuggle under the quilt my grandmother made, when I look at the crewel work my mother stitched, when we hang those handmade ornaments on the tree, I understand and offer up a wee little wish that Calder Ray and his parents put these things in their cherish column one day, too.

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And if you haven’t yet made some blocks, perhaps you’d like to put some cloth in your hands and join us.
Or maybe you’d like to gather friends and family, colleagues or students, club or guild members, etc. together and make a group quilt.

A Cold Molasses Kind of Day

Two nights with little (last night) or no (the night before last) sleep caught up with me today. The reason for the sleepless night is that my bedtime reading was a first-person account of the Holocaust, and her stories were even more horrifying than anything I’ve seen, read, or heard to date. By the time I gave myself permission to close the book, it was too late. The images and feelings were stirred and refused to be quieted. 48 hours later, they are still with me – especially imagining how The 70273 we commemorate must have been treated. I am not one to play ostrich and bury my head in the sand, finding that a dangerous act that paves way for atrocities, but I can now understand better than ever why some people make such choices.

Though there’s much to do, I decided there was nothing to do but move slowly through today and punctuate the afternoon with a nap.

70273Ironing

So I first ironed the red fabric that Tami Kemberling donated to The 70273 Project.
Ironing flat pieces is much easier than ironing clothes.

BackSideStitching

Then I stitched a bit on a tenured Work In Progress,
a piece in The Rinse Cycle: Pivotal Epiphanies in a Woman’s Life series,
and marveled at how much I like the wrong side of pieces
sometimes more than I like the right side.
In high school, I made my dress for the senior prom
(Yes, I had that much personality)
and I horrified my mother and her friends
by choosing to make the wrong side of the fabric
the right side.
Only Ms Johnson thought it a daring and brilliant move
on my part.
In return, I found her a daring and brilliant woman.

StormAtSea30May16

Then I stitched a bit on the Storm at Sea quilt
I’m making for my boy, Kipp.
It is the never-ending quilt, to be sure
because I did the Jeanne thing
and opted to hand stitch each block individually
instead of quilting straight rows across.
I tried the straight across approach and felt it disrupted the magic
of this pattern, so I ripped it all out,
took a deep breath
and started again.
It takes about 12 hours to quilt an entire block.
Every now and then I count the blocks waiting to be quilted
and formulate a plan for reaching the finish line –
1 block finished on Monday and Tuesday;
2 blocks finished on  Wednesday and Thursday;
3 blocks finished on Friday and Saturday:
and so on till I know what day I will be finished.
Then I take a day (or ten) off
and must devise a new plan.
My current targeted deadline is Christmas.
I might make that.
Might.

The Engineer, who refuses to take naps
and sometimes (thought not today, thankfully)
it seems he decides that nobody else will nap either,
busied himself rearranging the deck furniture,
bringing some furniture up from the lower deck
to find a new home on the upper deck
and presumably carting other pieces
down to the lower deck.
Both decks are rather small,
so I dread going outside tomorrow
to find (yet another) space that has that
just-moved-in look.
The Engineer doesn’t nap
and I don’t tolerate clutter well (at all).
Even after all these years, though,
we find a way to compromise
and live together with respect for
each other without completely abdicating our own selves.
We’ve become experts at choosing
which hills we’re willing to die on
and which hills to let go.
Some days that’s  easer than others.
Every day it’s at the top of the list of things love must do.

scraps

GMBquilt1

it is the sixth day of sun and blue skies we’ve seen since thanksgiving, so we do the only thing that makes sense: we leave. we trek to a nearby town in search of an air purifier – that was our official excuse – and after spending, oh i don’t know, maybe two minutes on that search, we walk up and down main street, ducking in the human society thrift shop – where i found two national geographic magazines i can’t live another day without – then on down to one of the many antique shops on the square.

we see christening dresses, white gloves, a colonial war metal warming plate. we see a small perfume bottle in a sterling silver case that snaps closed with a definitive click. we see an entire cabinet full of keys . . . alas, but no roller skate key. if the woman who talks to herself is to be believed, we see a bible box and an ice cream plate. she begins to talk to me, generously sharing with me news of the best deal around: a mining spot in cherokee, n.c. where you buy a bucket for $13 and set to mining. she went there not long ago, and having decided to hold onto the smaller stones in their natural state, she is heading back over tomorrow to pick up her 3 carat emerald that’s being cut. the man doing the cutting reckons that one stone alone is worth $3,000.00 to $4,000.00, and she wonders how on earth they can make money with buckets costing only $13 each, but soon enough she answers her own question: they own the mining rights AND they get paid to cut and set the stones. she doesn’t think she’s tall enough to pull off wearing a four carat emerald, so she’s fine with the smaller three carat stone.

when she picks up her cut stone, she’ll pay for two or three more of those $13 buckets, hoping to raise enough money to purchase the ten acres on the market for $10,000. it’s uncleared land, but she figures she will sell the stones to pay for the clearing of five acres which she’ll then sell and use the proceeds from that sale to clear the other five acres and have clarence come put her a trailer there where she’ll live happily ever after.

///

spying the glass-front filled with jars and bags of marbles, the young mesmerized boy says pointedly, “dad, do you realize i don’t have any marbles?”

“oh you have some marbles,” his dad says, distracted with the boxes filled with hinges and door knobs and such he’s rifling through “you’ve just lost them.”

///

we see a naked baby doll that’s much the worse for wear, her skin all cracked and peeling, one eye permanently closed in a wink, her smile faded but still radiant. i want to bring her home and love her.

a smaller doll lies in the box with her, a doll so small you can hold her in the palm of one hand. her tag says “porcelain doll missing,” and sure enough both feet, one hand, and one arm up to the elbow have been amputated. i don’t know how to fix her, so i hug her, lay her back down, and wish her well.

///

as i stitch the evening away and as the scraps of fabric find their way together into a new cloth, these lines by nikki giovanni comes to dance in the eye of my needle:

When I am frayed and strained and drizzle at the end
Please someone cut a square and put me in a quilt
That I might keep some child warm
And some old person with no one else to talk to
Will hear my whispers.

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More about 365 Altars

pieces of peace

CTBQuilt.jpg

my grandmother made quilts – one for everybody in the family.

she’d swap fabric scraps with neighbors, decide on a pattern, then dump the accumulated fabric bits out on the bed, make her selections, and start cutting. she consulted with us about our preferred color for the flannel backing fabric, but she and she alone made the decision on fabric for the quilt tops based mostly – okay, solely – on what fabrics she had in hand.

she used a sewing machine – an old treadle machine – to sew the pieces together into blocks then the blocks together into the top. one the top was assembled, she’d sandwich batting between the quilt top and flannel backing and stitch those together, the machine whirring it’s irregular rhythm. the very last thing she did once the quilting was done and the borders finished off, was embroider our name in a corner of the quilt, and that she did by hand.

jeanne.jpg

honestly, the quilts weren’t all that special to us. we figured quilting was just something grandmother did to keep busy. my mother used our quilts to wrap furniture when she moved it out to redecorate and as beach towels when we went to the ocean and as dog beds on cold winter nights. when they got dirty, she’d throw them in the washing machine then hang them on the line to dry.

a few years ago i decided to catalog grandmother’s quilts and asked my cousins, aunts, and uncles to bring their quilts to be photographed. when we held the first one up to the backdrop of the woods and stepped back to have a look, there was an audible collective inhale followed by the most exquisite silence – the silence of respect and appreciation and love-in-a-new-light.

holes.jpg

my quilt is in the velveteen stage of life, loved raw in places, the batting spilling out and making a mess all over the place. i’ve thought about mending it, but, shoot, i’ve never gotten around to it. i ought to, though, because let me tell you one thing: some of the most peaceful moments i’ll ever know are enjoying that deep, peaceful, falling-off-the-edge good sleep that comes only on the nights when grandmother’s quilt is wrapped around me. mmm mmm mmm. all those tiny little pieces. painstakingly cut, arranged, then stitched together into something bigger. something much, much bigger.

JeanneQuilt2.jpg

#best09
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the story is mine, but credit for the kindling goes to gwen bell and her best of 2009 blog challenge.
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