Posts Tagged With: quilts


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My great-grandmother started this quilt when she was 94 years old. It was her first time to use an electric sewing machine, her eyes were weary, and the quilt is very poorly sewn, and was unfinished. My mother handed it to me, and I asked my quilt guild friends at one time, could it be rescued? Their answer was, only keep it if it has memories for you. I’ve finally hemmed the border and yarn tied it, nothing of beauty, but useable. Quilters have many homilies about working on quilts, a lot of nostalgia induced from working with saved scraps of material, parts of your children’s clothing, Aunt Elsie’s wedding veil or a favorite blouse or dress. As I worked some magic crept in. I thought of the few encounters I had with her. She spoke a jumble of French mixed in with her English. I could see her beautiful smile when she picked up my older sister’s first child, and hugged her. She would touch my cheeks with soft, soft hands. I traced her work closely with my hands and thought about her. It crossed my mind that she touched this quilt, handled it, and it has never been washed. Could a person feel the DNA from a past great-grandmother?  Silly, I suppose but I got emotionally involved with this homely quilt.

My mother’s family was French. When she did an extensive genealogy, she found out that there was some American Indian blood in her family, which explained the hawk nosed Indian features of some of my uncles.

Speaking of features, when I was growing up, my dad used to call me his “little Mongolian” because I had very slanted, Asian looking eyes. One of my brothers and my oldest daughter have that same feature, except, as we aged, our eyes have become more occidental.

Now, a genealogist I know, red-haired and blue-eyed, had serious burns and went to a plastic surgeon. He told her, I see you have Asian or African background from the way your scars rope.

She told him it couldn’t be, she had traced her ancestry into the 1600’s and had a clear view of who she was.

Segue forward to DNA ancestry testing which is very popular and affordable right now. The plastic surgeon was right. She knew there was a family story that the grandson of Genghis Kahn, Kublai Khan had invaded their Polish village in the 1200’s. From the British Royal Museum, she got a map of Khan’s conquests and sure enough, their village of Besko was invaded. Kahn pillaged and burned his way across much of Asia and Europe, killing the men and impregnating as many women as he could. They say now that one out of 200 men are related to Kahn. Hmm!  Interesting. Maybe my Dad knew something I didn’t and I could be related to Genghis Kahn.  Guess it is time to get a DNA test.

See what can happen to you when you connect with the past through an old quilt?


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Being snowed in is an opportunity to pick up a quiet project and enjoy the day. I had several tasks that I could complete unhurried. I got news that a service is being held today for my friend Anne Williams which put me in a contemplative mood.

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Years ago, she and I would quilt together, before the rotary cutters and modern quilting innovations. We would have lunch and spend and afternoon chatting and cutting quilt blocks, simple diamond squares or nine squares. We always made rescue quilts, meaning using up salvageable material from old clothing. We didn’t buy new material unless we needed muslin to applique on. Backing material for me was almost always an old sheet. Then I’d make a quilt or she would make a quilt from the blocks. I designed this one for my oldest daughter who was young and single and a runner at the time. The blocks we made were divided into earth and sky. The quilting reads run,run,run on the background pieces.

It isn’t an expert quilt like quilt guilds specialize in today where they nearly mass produce perfect quilts. I think they miss a lot of what I liked about quilting. Maybe not. I shouldn’t judge. But when I examine my quilts and take a few minutes to really look at them, memories of a certain dress I loved, now preserved in a tiny square, delight me. I’m looking at a square dance dress Anne and I made when we served on the design committee one year; a piece of my son’s shirt, a square from my daughter’s blouse. I must have spent a half hour enjoying this quilt.  My friends Pam and Russ own a store called Stories In Stones. Quilts are stories too, each one unique.

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After a gorgeous sunrise in Superior…one of the loveliest things about living on the road, we see the sun go down each night and the sun rise each morning. We left Superior, WI about nine, crossed this unique curving bridge into the State of Minnesota right at Duluth, and parked practically in an alley in Grand Rapids, MN.  In fact, we are parked between signs, one reads, No Overnight Parking and another Overnight Parking Violators will be towed at owners expense.  We actually got permission from a bank manager to park here in our constant hunt for free parking.  Thank you Wells Fargo.

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We are parked in “Old Town” Grand Rapids. Old fashioned light posts, beautifully festooned with flower baskets so full I could reach then with my nose,though petunias are not particularly fragrant. To the left of this photo is an open lot with a farmers market just closing up as I started my walk about town. I bought delicious cherry tomatoes of every color. My goal was to visit Central School on the corner of 169 South and 2 West. We are beelining for Washington State and sticking tight to Highway 2.

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Central School is on the National Register of Historical Places. The wooden central stairway and hardwood floors, are a thing of beauty. Four classrooms upstairs, four downstairs and a basement that once held offices and a cafeteria. The building now rents to shopkeepers, with a bakery, a quilt shop, antiques, quality wood work and jewelry and unique gifts. A lovely stop.

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No matter how many times I see this sign, it brings me a chuckle. The other one I like is: “She who dies with the most fabric wins.” I guess you can tell I’m a quilter.

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I’d never seen this pattern before. It is called stepping stones. ABC’s of Quilting carries some neat quilt kits along with the usual fabrics and quilting supplies.

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The owner of Whispering Woods Gallery displays the work of many artists. These lovely items above are placed on a basswood plinth. He makes furniture, beds, desks, benches and uses various woods including basswood, which is unfamiliar to me.

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He demonstrated the cambium layer of bark of the basswood tree because it is known for its strength. He uses it for bucket handles, it can provide rope for a bunk bed, or braided   hanging ornaments or lamps. The wood is soft like pine but very strong.

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I loved that you can stop here for a game of checkers, another little area is set aside with floor pillows and a children’s reading library. Too fun.  You can sit and enjoy a treat from the bakery. Gifts, antiques, old and new items. A lot to offer.

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I left the school and directly across the side street was a line-up of nice shops, Hopperton’s Moccasins and gifts. Nice stuff.

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MacRostie Art Center where Ashley Kolka was in the process of setting up a new exhibit.

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Fine arts, sculpture, jewelry, fine paintings, multiple medas.  this chair is exquisite with a price tag to match at $6,000.

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Next door, a clothing store with wearable art, bags, shoes, scarves.

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At Stained Glass With Class, I asked, “Are you the glass man?”  George Berkholz answered: look at my hands, I’m always full of cuts.  You really can’t tell, they are more like scratches. He and his wife Lisa work the shop and also host classes. I watched him work for awhile. He cuts glass so fast you can’t get the action with the camera.

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He makes some unusual items.

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Nice Shop, friendly people.

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The Yarn Gallery was my favorite stop, well, a toss up with the wood gallery. The yarns are varied and pretty amazing, but I loved, loved, loved the yarn chair.

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I’m goofy about art chairs. I don’t know quite how or why I’ve come across a bunch of objects turned art with yarn. My photos include a yarn bus, a cab, a bench I think an elephant or a giraffe. Too fun! For a quick stop, this was a nice area of Grand Rapids to be in.

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I loved this museum. It took you from mammoth teeth to the current crop of famous musicians that hail from Kentucky, and it was beautifully organized and easy to understand. The first surprise was a hand-operated elevator.

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I always look for something I’ve never seen before, and this was it.

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They did a wonderful job on Victorian clothing and habits. Above, some men’s hats. But the women’s clothing were spectacular. This museum had a tea where locals dressed in the old clothing and showed them off.

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They could do this because the clothing is in such good shape.

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A painted feather fan.

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And, the language of fans. How repressed women were is astonishing.

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I laughed out loud when I read that men took the time to make laws about hat pins. It shows their fear of women.DSC06078 (Copy)

Another example. Men organized against women’s suffrage, but turned their back when it came time to take their pictures. It kind of reminds me when I was a journalist, I published that the local Rotary had refused to accept women as members. This was in the 1980’s. Rotary members castigated me at a public Merchants Association Meeting for making it public. Now, they love having hardworking women on their team.

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There are beautiful quilts in this museum, many of them.

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As always, a section on wars. The posters were not all the usual ones, and good copy. A small section on the Civil War and Korea, Vietnam and WWII.

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They had the full story of Jean Thomas, this talented and courageous Kentucky woman who gained the trust of Kentucky hill people, hauled a piano into the deep woods and recorded and saved for posterity their wonderful music, unwritten and handed down from generation to generation. I saw a television special about her some years back.

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They had a big section on Kentucky’s musicians that made it big, the most obvious, Billy Ray Cyrus who was born nearby and still maintains a house in Ashland. His daughter, by the way, is Hannah Montana.

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And the Judds. Polly, second from left, is Naomi’ s mother, Wynona’s grandmother. She still lives here. The locals call her Polly.

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For my interest, I chose to concentrate on women’s suffrage which really started in 1840 with Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone and Sojourner Truth.

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Forgotten are the many women who followed the original heroines of the battle. From every state they marched.

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Some of these women were beaten, jailed, and force-fed. In 1917 suffragette Jeannette Rank was the first women in congress.

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The press vilified them as humorless old maids.

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State by state they fought and made progress.

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By the 1920’s, they were ripping off their corsets and demanding freedom to be something other than baby machines and servile wives.

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They went from beautiful clothing like this, but, covered from neck to ankles…DSC06068 (Copy)

To “seductive” clothing like this. OMIGOD! Later, women cut their hair and wore slacks. I still have a small rug my mom made that included the worn material from her first pair of slacks. This was such a hoot to look back on, without taking away the seriousness of the movement and how much we women owe to those early women who suffered and paved the way to freedom for us. It still astonishes me when I see it.

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Later in the afternoon, I met Dr. Amy Litteral of Moxie Massage here in Ashland. She is also a chiropractor and I learned so much about body mechanics from her and had the most intense and therapeutic massage from her that I’ve ever had. I  can’t praise this woman enough.

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Yesterday was a work day, cleaning, laundry, shopping; I did some hand sewn mending. Our planned move put off another day partly because of high winds. We are still on a picture upload diet until Feb. 4th. Didn’t take one picture yesterday. But, I took a lot of pictures of Quilts at the Civil War Quilt Exhibit. And, I want to tell you about the Texas Quilting Museum.

Quilt exhibits tend to move, they are often shown at a small venue and never seen again. The Texas Quilt Musuem founders wanted a place to showcase quilts for a longer period of time where more people could discover and appreciate quilts as art,both traditional and avant guarde.  La Grange Texas is a small town within driving distance of Houston, Austin and San Antonio, three of the 20 largest cities in the U.S. Here you will find educational opportunities, a library, a peace garden and peace memorial, and the history of quilts and quilt making. La Grange has a cultural center that celebrates its Czech heritage, and wonderful food and views of the Colorado River, according to their brochure. (I hope to visit it on another trip.)


My favorite was the French quilt, in the style of Broderie Perse, popular in the early 19th Century, French for Persian Embroidery. DSC01546 (Copy)

Individual blocks show the fine work and beauty.

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The fan blades are made from reproduction Civil War materials along with fine  print pastels from that time.

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This quilt is true to Civil War materials and is called a cheddar quilt, a common color used then. Made by a woman of color, and inspired by a woman of color who learned to quilt when that skill was not allowed to them. The Civil War quilter was a member of the underground railroad.

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In this quilt,the maker wanted to represent Confederate Gray, Union BLue and the red of the battlefield drenched in blood. She was inspired by the horrible number of graves at a preserved battlefield.

A thousand pyramids, border churn dash blocks

The many materials in the pyramids represent grave markers. The churn dash border, a butter churn, was a common pattern of the day.

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This quilt center was made by one person,handed off to another who make the next square surround, the another made a border, and another border and so on until the quilt was finished by six different people.

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A close up f the center of the quilt. Fine, close quilting, applique and nine square blocks. I guess anyone can tell I love quilts and admire the workmanship I see in them. To me, my own quilts, are made from old family clothing, in part, and represent memories of dances attended, party dresses, the boys overalls, and so on. I call them rescue quilts because I don’t have to throw away or recycle favorite materials .

Before I part for the day, I want to insert a factoid from the Galveston Museum. Santos Cruz, head bartender for the famous Balinese Room, invented the margarita in 1948 for actress/songster (Margaret) Peggy Lee.



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I helped work on the paint job yesterday. I painted five window frames and two doorways,  which required having the doors open to the wonderful, cool weather we had yesterday. My son was having problems with his back and I decided I could do it myself. I enjoyed it, but there are eleven doors in this house and many windows still unpainted. So, we will be at it for two more days, at least.

With open doorways, I decided to get all the projects stowed in boxes under desks and in corners up off  the floor and consider which one to start with. DON’T PUT OFF ‘TIL TOMORROW…  you know what I mean.

A book on brew-tasting I wrote when the craft beer movement first got started. Unsold. I thought I should put it together. Scrapbooks of trips left unfinished. To many to name.

All week long, I’ve washed and sorted through a barrel of wool for rug-making. Braided, hooked and rag rugs are beautiful and long-lasting.

This is an unfinished hooked rug I started too many years ago.

I’ve braided eight area rugs. This one is in my living room. The biggest one I made was four-foot diameter circle rug that I’ve given to a friend.

Two small ones designed to be place in front of chairs so the carpet doesn’t wear down in one noticeable place.

A washable rag rug for the bathroom. It is made of cotton, not wool. I enjoy making rugs and the end result.

I’ll store the wool until cold weather sets in. I didn’t photograph the number of quilts I’ve cut and haven’t sewn. Or art projects unfinished. I’m never bored, as intended. But, I  think I have YEARS of projects on hold. Oh, well. It’s like fun in the bank.



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