Thursday, June 13, 2019

Connie's Purple Crazy Quilt/ Hand-tied Comforter

I had promised my readers that I was making a "fast and simple quilt and would soon post pictures". The quilt turned out to be a little less than fast or simple but it is done at last and will soon be shipped to my friend, Connie, the person it was made for. And so at last, here it is:
Connie's Purple Crazy Quilt. The patchwork was done
"organically". Hannah McMillen pinned and I machine
sewed the pinned pieces of fabric onto 19 inch square
blocks of muslin fabric.
It started with my friend, Connie's favorite colors: Purple with some lavenders, violets and pinks. The patchwork was all unplanned and done "organically" in that my daughter spontaneously pinned patches and I machine sewed them to twelve 19 inch muslin blocks, such that their raw seams would all be on the inside and invisible. My daughter is an artist and I trusted her judgement, having chosen beautiful fabrics of which any combination would be lovely. Each square was sewn from the center to the edges, folding the fabric over the machine stitched seams.
This quilt is for my friend, Connie and so her heart became
the center for this quilt, embellished with a yo-yo flower
whose leaves form "wings". Connie is not unlike an angel,
as she has been a dedicated and loving companion to both
her grandmother as well as her great-aunt. The embroidered
cherib in the corner of this block is outlined with shiny
metallic button blanket stitches, whose spokes point outward,
just like Connie's love that is given so generously!
I then went over every seam with different machine stitches on my Husqvarna Designer I machine. My machine has a zillion stitches and I used various colors of embroidery thread that would accent each piece of patchwork. The design of this quilt provided me much practice using this machine. Mind you, I am "old-school" and so I can create most any stitch by-hand, but using a fancy, albeit old style computer machine is a bit foreign. I had issues with the thread reeling off the spool too fast, causing what is called "bird nesting" or  bunched thread under the sewing plate, and by the end of this project, I figured that my machine was due for being serviced and hoped that that would solve its problem. For this reason, I decided that actual embroidered pictures and words would be done on fabric and then hand-appliqued to this quilt instead of sewn directly on it, excepting the stitches that bordered each patch. That way there would hopefully be no holes created from this "bird nesting" problem as those pieces of fabric were thrown out and not used.
Each  appliqued heart is embroidered with the names of
Connie's special people in her life. And each rectangular
word embroidered with the values of Connie's life: faith,
love, hope and joy. Various embroidered pictures show bits
of what her life has been about. This one is about helping
her Great Aunt Marlene, in the kitchen.
I later learned what I had forgotten: that machine embroidery threads are slippery and light weight and will come easily off the horizontally placed spool unless slowed by putting a special "spool net" over the spool. Perhaps no servicing is needed if this "spool net" works on my projects in the future? For this quilt, I simply held my breath, and positioned my tongue, as one does when they are doing something too hard, and I prayed to the Saint of Machine Embroiders, and when all else failed threw out scraps of fabric and cursed! I am well-known for being a bit dramatic, but very stubborn and persistent! And I finished what I attempted to do!
Connie loves coffee and church and flowers. Her church
became a bird house church among the yo-yo flowers. I had
hoped that fusing would be enough on smaller appliqued
pieces, but in the end I thought better of it, and hand-stiched
everything to be sure that small appliques would not
come loose.
Anyway what you see is the result of using every trick I could think of, including special fusing interfacing but in the end, hand-stitched all appliques to better secure them. The joining seams were machine stitched and then embellished with feather-stitching done by hand so as to not challenge my machine and light machine embroidery thread with the extra thicknesses of the layered fabrics. I used to be a nurse and so part of my "tool bag" comes with various size clamps to help me pull my needle through the extra thickness of fabric! Overall, I was pleased with the result and my top was successful!
Connie sent me a picture of her dog, Molly, but as I couldn't
tell where to put the spots, as she was wearing a coat and
galoshes, I added those detail to Connie's little appliqued
dog. Connie has a charming personality and so does her
little dog!
Never did I imagine that my polyester batting would cause any issues for me and this batting gave me fits, such that in the future, I would simply start over with a different batting. What can go that wrong with a batting, you ask? It pilled, and shed and then "bearded", which is when you are either quilting or tying and the batting comes out of the needle holes attached to the thread or yarn. Polyester batting usually comes with sizing on the top and bottom and this one did not. I used a thin batting as I didn't want a very heavy or high-loft batting. I figured, there was weight enough in the weight of the patchwork, extra stitching, the muslin foundation fabric to which the patches were sewn, plus the dark purple high-thread-count sheet used for the backing.
Connie loves to sit in Marlene's back yard porch swing to
rock and sing and loves the nature that surrounds her.
Connie is happy, loves music and dances with joy as well!
I had planned for this to be a "quickly done gift-quilt/ hand-tied comforter", instead of an heirloom hand-sewn piece, but ended up taking extra steps to assure that this quilt would last, and wanted it all embellished enough to be pretty and rather ornate and so did what I had to do to get the look I wanted and have it last. You be the judge, but then actually I am, mostly likely, the harsher judge. The batting didn't lay as flat as I had hoped. I tied it from the back, while choosing the sites for the ties from the front and while I hoped that it was laid out smoothly, the batting was less than cooperative and I later found a crease in the batting not noticed when we were laying it out. I had to remind myself that "finished is better than perfect" and it was important that this piece be finished as soon as possible.  I am hopeful that when it is washed this crease will relax and lay flatter. I am fortunately more perfectionistic than the recipients of my quilts.
Connie is an avid Christian and loves Jesus and so His heart
is also in the center of her quilt.
This turned into a memory quilt for Connie and represents a bit of an honorary award to her. She has dedicated her life to being a companion to her grandmother and then her great aunt. She is a kind and loving person, who has given her love to those who needed it most during the final chapters of their lives. I hope it will be a special memory quilt for Connie. It turned into being my special gift to her, as I so appreciated what she was able to give to my good friend. Neither she nor I expected that her great aunt and my dear friend would become seriously ill just as I was starting this quilt, and I hope it will be of comfort to Connie as we both grieve her great aunt's decline. Her quilt commemorates Connie's faith, hope, love and joy and a dear great aunt that she has loved. Connie is a dear and caring person and loves purple as do I!
Mark's heart had praying hands on it as he was the leader
of an international prayer group to which Connie belonged.
Featured at the top left corner of Connie's quilt is a heart
with Mom embroidered on it, as her mom has a
very special place in Connie's heart.
Also featured were her brother and sister-in-law, and their
names, Kelley and Maria are on the joining hearts,

...and her friend, Pearl's heart and a picture of embroidered
Also, a picture of a heavenly cloud with the names of those
that Connie loves that are now in heaven.
This is my humble dedication block on the back of Connie's
quilt. This was hand-embroidered, and apparently my fingers
were ready to be done with this quilt, but I remembered the
motto "better finished than perfect"  and it supported my
decision to finish this quilt with this less-than-perfect
dedication block. Another Amish quilt saying is "every
quilt needs to have something done imperfectly, as only
God makes perfect things!" I don't have to work at
making things less than perfect as that is simply "a given"
 in my creations.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Upon Request: An Unpublished Book from Long Ago

About that quilt that I promised was coming soon? It still is in progress and hopefully done this next week, albeit months later than I had hoped. Meanwhile, upon request, I am daring to put forth the first of many pieces from an unpublished book, that I wrote many years ago. It's title is The Smallness of the Place. I wrote it shortly after we had moved to Vermont and it is my record of our amazing experiences of going from a tiny home in the city of Denver to life on a three hundred acre farm in Orwell, Vermont. It is all true, except where it is laced with my imagination that grew to be as large as the farm. We rented The Old Wilcox Farmhouse from landlords that were in the process of moving to Maine in 1990 and so my story begins...

                                                                              The Old Wilcox Farm

The Old Wilcox Farm
In our country village, houses were named for their original owners. It doesn't matter if they haven't lived there for forty years, and although the mailing addresses are now by route and box number, a person's whereabouts can be stated by simply telling the name of their homestead. We lived on The Old Wilcox Farm. It's history was written within its walls. It was then, thirty years ago now, one hundred and sixty-five years old and we wondered if some of its previous residents returned to visit us?
Front side of The Old Wilcox Farmhouse
I loved listening to those willing to tell about the farm's history. "My girlfriend lived there", one Orwell resident said.
The view from the upper window where the door to the
veranda used to be. In the distance, the unkempt orchard
and field to the left of the animal barn.
Another added, "My uncle lived there and as a child I would sit out on the upstairs' veranda" (that is no longer there). "We would look out to the orchard", which had been too long unkempt to grow apples when we lived there. "A door used to be here and a wall there". The upstairs closet turned into a bathroom and the downstair's bathroom, was a modern addition, now joined to the pantry, which used to be part of the wood barn.
Cupboard door  in the wall for easy
access to wood stored in the wood barn
and doorway to the pantry, laundry room
and bathroom, what used to be
part of the wood barn.

The wood barn addition to the back of the house with a
side door entrance to the house. An upstairs attic and bedroom
 above the huge kitchen below, all heated with the kitchen's
wood stove. The front of the house had a living room, parlor,
library room and study and its upstairs, 4 more bedrooms
and a spacious hallway.
The primitive but functional laundry room and pantry.
The downstair's bathroom. My
additional decor was a chamber pot sitting
on the floor, a reminder of what was no
 needed thanks to the addition of this main
floor bathroom, as well as the one added
to the upstairs.
One bedroom had four different floral wallpapers, all exposed, but that isn't all that was exposed.
The original wood lathe was exposed as well and little cracks that lead to the raw outdoor weather, fortunately only in the hall, under the window where the door to the veranda used to be. Yet only small drafts found us in cold weather. We stayed warm, protected and dry, though the ceiling told of less dry days.

When we moved there we removed old rugs and found petrified spills beneath, of what we were not sure we wanted to know. Newspapers of thirty years ago lined shelves, and the wallpaper in the closets told of the room's original decor.

I once dreamed that Mrs. Wilcox appeared in a home-made printed dress, matching the wallpaper in the closet and proudly showed me a patchwork quilt, all hand-made, though her quilt stitches, by my standard, were too large! Muslin curtains and crocheted doilies were on all the dressers and I wondered where she found the time to make them? There are remnants of many gardens, too many for me to keep weeded and a barn with an old-style milk room. No modern conveniences to shorten the work load on this farm.

Flowers from the back gardens freshly cut for our kitchen
table, an extravagance not available to us in Denver, where
flowers weren't so plentiful. Vermont's summer rains made
growing flowers simply natural!
Some say our wood barn was once a summer kitchen to harvest all the family would need to last them through the year. I can't even imagine how they did their laundry, though I met a ninety-year old woman who talked of setting up housekeeping in her first house that had been "the hand's house" on the hill. She had no running water. Not all was glorious in those days, though in my mind I can see the orchard trimmed and bordered with a vine-covered fence and to either side pastures, one of corn and the other of hay and the woodlands, bordering all. Natural flowerbeds in the wet ravines remained overgrown with wild growing orange day-lilies. The back flowerbed was filled with roses, day lilies and mountain lupine in a vast array of colors. The vegetable garden like another patchwork quilt, sewn in rows all straight and neat, except for the pumpkins and squash that added large squares of green, hiding their colorful fruit.  
Annual flowers growing unattended in the back flower

The hand's house on the hillside in back, filled with
antique art books, owned by our landlords,and across
the road from an in-ground swimming pool.
This was no ordinary place we had rented. It was the
stuff dreams were made of!
This "hand's house, used as a book house" was 
the size of most regular houses!
The lower animal barn with garden space in front of it!

Animal pens, so clean and neat that they have no smell, for this is My dream.  Chickens are in the barn still needing protection from things that might eat them in the night. Cows are there too, unless in the pasture, just behind the pens and down the hill, next to the cow pond, filled from the fresh spring upon the hill. "Too pastoral to be real," some would say, but The Old Wilcox Farm was real and kept beautiful in my dreams, though the cows really lived down the road on another farm.
Field to the right of the garden area, and a cow pond
in front of the brown pasture land now leased to those
nearby farmers who would come in and plant and harvest
the fields.

(This story continues, so stay tuned. We were truly blessed to have lived out our dreams here for almost seven years. By the time we moved to Castleton, we were ready to live a bit "less rural". The expanse of the farm lives on in our memories, and after the farm sold and we bought a house in Castleton, we continued to live out our dreams large! So why the title, The Smallness of the Place? Read on to find out! 

This is dedicated to my friend, Sharon, who just moved to Brattleboro, Vermont from Staten Island and wrote that Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book here in Vermont and my response was that it seems that Vermont is so inspiring that many people write when they come here and confessed to writing a book that has been sitting on my shelf.  I quickly added that not all writers publish, but she requested to read it and I told her I would post it in segments. Most of my readers know that I live an incremental life, having suffered with Chronic Lyme Disease and having limited energy. It hasn't stopped me, however, from moving to Vermont, writing this book, teaching as well as nursing and then retired to create designer pincushions, a blog and now quilts. So because Sharon asked for it...I am posting this!