Friday, December 18, 2009

Time Heals All Wounds

Today I wanted to take a moment to remember my Aunt Edna. She passed away from cancer just after Christmas in January 1995.

You see my love of quilting has it's roots in this special lady. My mother and her mother didn't sew, let alone quilt, but my Dad's mother and my Aunt Edna (his sister) did. Edna lived 3-4 hours away, but trips to her house were always exciting to me. She had a home filled with beautiful quilts and afghans that she had made herself and she was an incredible cook. I loved looking at all the beautiful colors and designs. A trip to her home was like visiting a wonderland for the senses.

Edna was diagnosed with cancer prior to my 16th birthday. She had begun working on a quilt for my birthday and called my father to tell him that he had to promise her that if she did not make it out of surgery that he would contact the ladies in her guild and have them finish my quilt. She was very adamant that I have this quilt, regardless of what happened to her. Thankfully she was able to finish the quilt herself and my dad and I made a trip out to visit her for my birthday.

I didn't get the lighting correct on this picture, but here is my 16th birthday quilt.

Every stitch in this quilt was taken by hand. I am not sure if she used a pre-printed kit for the embroidery, or if she used another method for the design. I personally have not come across another quilt like it.

This picture shows the back of the quilt and all of her beautiful hand stitches.

If you look closely at the pictures you will see wear on this quilt and there is a very good reason for it. Edna made me promise to use this quilt. She would even ask me when she called me if my quilt was on the bed. Edna told me that she wanted me to be wrapped in her love, and that she didn't spend her time working on the quilt just to have it put away in a chest somewhere and not enjoyed. I slept under this quilt every night until I married at 25 and now I wrap myself in it on those occasions I am ill and "on the couch". Thanks to Aunt Edna, when I give someone a quilt I tell them the same thing. I make my quilts to be used and used again. I don't want them put away somewhere and not enjoyed.

Thank you Aunt Edna for gifting me with the love of things handmade. Every stitch I take keeps me connected to you.... until we see each other again in heaven.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Christmas Elephant

For the past few days I have been working on a project to improve a Christmas "gift" I received a few years ago. This "gift" has been a thorn in my side for quite some time. I have actually shed tears over it, and believe me they were not tears of joy. I know I sound ungrateful here, but maybe my explanation will put it all in context.

To truly understand how all of this came about I must first explain a little bit of history. My husband was married before me, and his ex-wife and his brother's wife did not get along. I will not go into the details here, but their feud made things very uncomfortable in the family. My in-laws felt that they had to buy their daughter-in-laws the exact same gift for Christmas. Unfortunately for me, this tradition continued after my husband and I married.

My sister-in-law and I are as different as night and day, but one thing we have in common is that we do not allow shoes to be worn in our homes. My husband and his brother did not grow up this way and although I have successfully trained my husband to take his shoes off my sister-in-law still has problems with her husband. We both have problems with family members who want to just traipse in with who knows what on their shoes. This was the start of the "gift".

My sister-in-law had told our mother-in-law that she was thinking of buying a small (keep the word small in you head, it will be important later) bench she found in a catalog. She wanted to place it by her front door to make it easier for everyone to take their shoes off.

My mother-in-law decided that for Christmas she would have my father-in-law make her a shoe bench rather than buy one for her from the catalog. Of course they also decided that I had to have one too, so we would have the same gift. My mother-in-law even asked me about it by showing me the catalog and asking if I liked the bench. I told her that it was nice, but that I had absolutely no room in my house for any furniture and would have no place to put that bench. (again remember the word small associated with the catalog bench) I'm not sure why she asked me, when she had no intention of listening to what I said. *lol*

Christmas comes and my sister-in-law calls to tell me that there is something at her house for me and that we needed to bring the truck when we came up for Christmas dinner. She had this "tone" to her voice. When we get to her house I discovered what the "tone" was all about. My father-in-law had built each of us the biggest shoe bench I have ever seen. (Remember the word small?) It measures 55" long (almost 4 1/2 feet) and over 20" wide. Three people could sit on this bench side by side. The thing to remember here is that I live in a single-wide.

My in-laws have been to my home many, many times. They know how much room we have and yet......

As you can see the bench was constructed out of scrap lumber and upholstered with stark white taffeta. The picture hides how bad it was, but trust me it was not something either of us wanted displayed in our homes. I said not a word. I love my husband's parents and would NEVER want to hurt their feelings, but I could not imagine what I was going to do. My husband and I took it home and I had to shove all my furniture together to get it in the house. I cried.

For the past few years I have covered the bench with a blanket and dealt with it. We cannot dispose of it because it would hurt his parents feelings. I finally decided that if I was going to have to live with this thing I would try to at least make it pretty. Last week I purchased some paint and fabric.

Trying to re-upholster the bench with a toddler running around was difficult, but after several hours of work I finished it. I am pleased with the results. I painted the front panel country brown and added a piece of wall border to pull the fabric colors together.

I still hate it in my living room, I really do, but at least now it is pretty to look at. One day, when we move into the farm house, I will have more space for it and perhaps I will come to enjoy it. For now, I'm just glad I have a little bit of creativity in me. Maybe my poor sister-in-lay will get an idea or two from me and improve her bench too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I am afraid I suffer from the same affliction as almost every other quilter I know...I can't resist fabric. Getting a great deal makes it even harder to resist.

Yesterday I drove up to Guhl's with my mother-in-law. For those of you who don't know, Guhl's is a discount outlet. They have a little bit of everything including fabric. Most of their fabric is cuts ranging from scant pieces to 4 yards or a little under, but they also sometimes purchase quilt shop fabric by the bolt. I drove up hoping to find some pieces for a sampler quilt I am wanting to start. I found a few cuts of fabric I liked and was then thrilled when I found bolts of Windham Fabric. Most of what I purchased is from their New Town Farm collection. The best part is that I paid $2.49 a yard for $9.50 a yard fabric!

All the fabric except for the blue print will go into my sampler quilt. I fell in love with the blue and just couldn't resist purchasing some, even though I don't have a project in mind for it yet. I wish that the pictures did this fabric justice. The colors are much darker and richer in person.

I also purchased two apron panels. I love aprons and they are so easy to sew. I must confess though that including these, I have about six apron panels that I have yet to cut out and sew. Hopefully these will make great winter projects.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Work vs. Family: A Wifey Wednesday Post

I enjoy following Shelia at Love, Honor and Vacuum Every Wednesday she posts a Wifey Wednesday entry and asks for input. Today is the first day I have chosen to respond here.

Today's topic really hit home with me. Not because I live with the type of marriage she describes, but because NOT living that way is the basis for our entire life.

You see my father almost worked himself to death. I can't remember a time in my childhood when he wasn't working. He missed out on choir concerts, flag corps competitions, 4-H activities, and just about everything else. While my mother drank and "did the things she did" my father worked. While I learned to manage a household like a full grown woman, my father worked. While I suffered the blows both physically and mentally, my father worked. I would love to imagine that he didn't know, but the truth was he did. I do have good memories of times with my father. He's not a monster, he just did things the way he thought he should.

When my father became ill a few years ago the company that he worked for, that he sacrificed his family for, fired him. He lost his pension, his health insurance, my parent's home, and most of their possessions.

This is the reason Keith and I live the way we do. We live in a 80's model singlewide (until the time comes to remodel and move into the farmhouse), we drive used vehicles, I shop for clothes at thrift shops and on e-Bay, I grow my own food, cut coupons, and cost cut every way I can. Everything we own is paid for. All of these things we do so that my husband does not spend his entire life working and missing out on his family. (and so that I can stay at home with our son) Do I sometimes wish I had the material possessions that others around me do? Yes I do, but then I take a long hard look at my life. I wouldn't trade it for any other.

I understand that not everyone can live as we do and some men have to work long hours that take them away from their families even if they do not want to. For us though, we have made the conscious decision to live a lifestyle that is focused more on family and less on material things. We are striving to "get back to the basics."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Banana Nut Bread

It amazes me how many women in my age group no longer know how to cook. I'm not talking about opening a box or using the microwave, but actual from scratch cooking. Sadly, good home cooking is becoming a lost art. Most of the women I know in their 30's and younger have never made a loaf of bread from scratch or a cake that didn't use a box mix. Box mixes are convenient, but read the label and you will find quite a bit more than flour and sugar lurking in the ingredients.

Last night I discovered that I had a few overripe bananas. I did not want them to go to waste, so I decided to make a banana nut bread. This is the recipe I have used for years. I can't remember where it came from, but it is very simple and hasn't failed me yet.

1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2-3)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven at 325.

Make sure your work area is clean and thoroughly wash your hands.

Bananas should be very ripe for the best banana flavor in your bread. Choose bananas that have speckled peels. These are the bananas I used last night.

In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients (minus the nuts, those go in last).

In a separate bowl, peel and mash bananas with a potato masher. The bananas should become very runny after this step. Think jarred baby food.

Add remaining wet ingredients to mashed banana and mix thoroughly.

Next, mix wet ingredients into flour mixture, stirring just until moistened. This is very important. Over-mixing will cause your loaf to turn out coarse and tough.

Gently fold in nuts. I used pecans because they are my favorite, but you can also use walnuts in the same quantity.

Pour batter into a greased loaf pan. It should look something like this.

Bake at 325 for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow bread to cool for approximately 10 minutes in the pan, then gently turn loaf out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Banana bread freezes nicely. Simply wrap well in aluminum foil and then slide into a large Ziploc freezer bag to protect it from picking up any odors in your freezer.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quilts for Kids

I am so excited. My Quilts for Kids package arrived today via UPS. In case you don't know Quilts for Kids is a program that uses volunteer quilters like myself, to create quilts for kids in need.

You provide the batting, the sewing, and the postage to send the quilt back to the organization. They provide the fabric and a simple pattern.

Isn't this fabric cute? I can't wait to get started.

Christmas Project

I've been MIA for a few. Mam Maw P has really needed quite a bit of help over the past few days and I've spent all of my time working either at her house or mine.

I did get an opportunity to prep the fabric panels for Keith's Christmas throw. I bought this fabric for him the Christmas before I became pregnant, and it has resided in my sewing room ever since.

Keith loves Rudolph and is very excited. My plan is to simply "pillowcase" bind the two fabric panels and then hand quilt around the characters. If I can find time for the quilting, it shouldn't take long at all. I think it is really meant to be a wall hanging, but I will probably just use it on the couch.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

God's Hand is in EVERYTHING!

Last night I drove my mother-in-law to Target. She thinks driving over in West Virginia is "city" driving and is terrified to go herself, so I take her when she wants to go. On our way home we met with a bit of a catastrophe. A large (and boy do I mean LARGE) doe was in the road ahead of me, almost straddling the yellow line. I saw her and quickly started slowing down while moving over to the shoulder of the road. One of the things my father taught me when I learned to drive was to never slam on my brakes. Slamming on your brakes can cause you to quickly lose control of your vehicle, and cause the person behind you to slam into your rear end. With the amount of traffic that travels on this particular route slamming on my brakes would have been a very bad idea. The doe took about 4 strides in the opposite direction, noticed a car coming down the hill toward it and reversed course. The doe took off at a dead run and slammed into the side of my car. She hit so hard she shoved my still moving car sideways. My poor mother-in-law is a drama queen extraordinaire. After the deer hit she began screaming hysterically. I had to raise my voice to get her to quit screaming and settle down.

I finished pulling off to the side of the road and picked up my cell phone to call the insurance company. I could not open my door, but the damage is contained to the front fender with the exception of my mirror which is now somewhere on the highway. We sat on the side of the road while I gave all the information to my insurance company.

I don't get upset over things like this. No one was injured, although I will admit my neck was a bit sore last night, I have insurance, and my car can be replaced. I would say the doe didn't fare as well, but she was not in the road behind us so I do not know her fate for sure. I hope she didn't suffer much. Possessions can always be replaced, our loved ones can't. Stressing or becoming angry over the damage to my car would serve no purpose. As we pulled back onto the road I told my mother-in-law that hitting the deer was just God's way of keeping some idiot ahead of us from pulling out in front of me and causing an even more severe accident. She told me that a friend of hers had said the same thing over the weekend when they took a wrong turn on a trip.

Several miles ahead on our own winding country road we saw the flashing lights of a fire truck. As we rounded the curve and were waved through by the firemen we saw a vehicle in the ditch, completely vertical with it's top smashed into the bank. I couldn't even tell you what type of vehicle it was, the damage was that bad. I told my mother-in-law that the accident was indeed proof to me that God put the deer in my path to keep us safe. If not for our stop to call the insurance company we would have been to this very spot in the road and who could say what the outcome might have been.

I entered my home last night not concerned with the damage to my car, but with a sense of peace and wonder. God's blessings are everywhere. Even in those moments where you want to scream and yell, lift your voice to heavens and praise God anyway. You never know when what might appear to a curse is really God's loving hand.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November at Catbird Acres

Fall and Winter are my favorite times of the year. I love the cool weather and my garden is put to bed. I have more time to concentrate on other projects. I have enjoyed spending as much time outside with Benjamin as possible. Benjamin seems to be like his Mommy and would rather be outside than anywhere else. A few weeks ago I purchased a used backpack carrier on e-Bay. Honestly, it has been on the the best purchases I have made for him to date. I wish I had known about these earlier, my garden could have been much bigger.

The only bad thing about this time of year is that a lack of foliage really shows me all the things that need to be done around the property. I keep a wipe board with a list of projects on it and the list just keeps growing. *sigh*

No sewing for me. For past few days, I've had entirely too much to do. I am hoping to fit in at least one quick project today.

This morning I am going to put on the baby backpack so Benjamin and I can head out and replace our No Trespassing signs. I feel like my girls are walking targets this time of year. I sometimes would like to get some neon hair color spray and write HORSE on their sides. Of course they probably couldn't read that either. I don't understand poachers. If you don't have permission to hunt on someone's land, stay off it! We have the borders of the property posted like crazy and yet we still have those that apparently can't read. Amazingly enough my signs tend to vanish this time of year too. I have decided that this year they are going to get a little surprise. I will be keeping an extra close eye and and will be calling the game warden. Ohio law says you must carry written permission from the landowner. Considering I have not given permission to anyone this season they will be hard pressed to produce a letter.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Dog Quilt

I thought I would put up a photo of the last project I finished. It is a dog quilt I made for my Dad and Mom's teacup poodle, Whiskers.

Whiskers gets a bandanna tied around his neck every time he goes to the groomer. My mom asked me if I would be willing to sew him a quilt using his bandannas. Considering his size the bandannas are very small. My mom does not sew (not even a button) so she had no input on what she wanted other than she wanted me to use the bandannas.

At first I thought I would just make it a scrappy patchwork, but after cutting I did not have enough fabric to only use his bandannas. I searched around in my stash until I found a fabric I liked to add borders. I changed my mind several times about how to lay it out.

This is how the top finally turned out. I wish I had taken pictures of it after I finished it, but Mom and Dad were in town visiting and she snatched it away as soon as she saw it. *lol* This was a quick project so, I ended up tying it with white pearl cotton thread, rather than quilting it. I should mention here that the reason for this is that I do not machine quilt. Even on a project this small, hand quilting takes a considerable amount of time. I placed one tie in the center of each square set, and then in the center of each blue strip.

Whiskers seems happy with his quilt. Mom and Dad use it to keep him warm when he rides in the car in the summer. He is so tiny the a/c bothers him without a blanket.

The sewing room is finished!

I managed to finish cleaning up the sewing room yesterday. It is amazing to me how much harder it is to accomplish things with a small child in the house. :) I worked my lovely government job until Benjamin was 9 months old. During that time my sewing room became the dumping ground for all the things in the house I didn't have time to deal with. My husband and one of his gun cabinets share this room with me and he is less than organized. I had plenty of help making the mess and none cleaning it up. *lol*

All in all I think it looks pretty good. I at least have space to work. I can't wait until I have a real sewing table to work with. It drives me crazy working with my machine on top of the the table like this, but it is manageable. I think Mam Maw P may have a sewing table upstairs, I need to get up there to look. Honestly I've been putting it off because I know I will not be able to go up there without spending a few days organizing and cleaning.

On a different note, my Christmas Cactus has decided to be a Veteran's Day cactus this year. It is blooming like crazy.

You can't tell from this picture, but the flowers are quite unique. They are white with a pink blush in the centers and a magenta pistol. I am hoping to get a good picture sometime today while the sun is bright. Considering I've only had this plant a couple of years I am quite happy with how it is blooming.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mountain Mist Pattern

I managed to make some progress on cleaning out the sewing room yesterday, just not as much as I would have liked. Some days I feel like I must have ADHD as I move from project to project. I wonder how I ever manage to get anything done. It is always harder this time of year as it begins to get colder outside and I have less and less outside work (my favorite) to occupy me. i can't wait to get things in order so that I can spend those cold icy days sewing.

Mam Maw P gave me another gift yesterday. Keith came down from the barn with a folded piece of paper that looked like a map. He told me that Mam Maw had sent it down and said if I didn't want it to just throw it away. Just like the fabric, she thought it was junk.

I unfolded the piece of paper to discover a perfect Stearns & Foster quilt batting wrapper with a Mountain Mist quilt pattern on the back dated 1931.

I almost swallowed my tongue. I guess I should mention here that Mam Maw P is not what I would call a "quilter". Her sewing is strictly utilitarian, but she does sew some 9 patch and bow tie quilts that she ties with yarn. The pattern is called Hexagon Pattern for Pieced Quilts, Number 25 of the Mountain Mist series. It includes layouts for Mosaic, Honeycomb, and Flower Garden. The most amazing thing to me is the size of the pattern. The hexagon is maybe 1.5". According to the pattern it takes 4,453 of these hexagons to make a Mosaic quilt that measures 72 x 89 1/4.

I did a little research and discovered that Mountain Mist started making quilt batting in 1846 in Cincinnati, Ohio. In the late 1920's they started offering a free quilt pattern with the purchase of their batting. The pattern was on the back of the paper that was wrapped around the batting, or you could order a pattern from the company. According to my wrapper the cost was 20c to order a pattern.

What a treasure! I will be tucking this pattern into the template pockets of my Elanor Burns "Egg Money Quilts" book. It will be safe and sound there and I will remember where it is. Maybe someday I will be able to sit down and complete one of these beautiful quilts by hand.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Today my goal is to get my sewing room back in order so that I can set up my machine and leave it out in a room that I can close the door on. Benjamin is now 17 months old and my machine is fascinating to him. (Not to mention the fact that little squares of fabric are great toys for both the cat and the kid.)

I have two projects going on right now. The first is a half log cabin in fall color fabrics. (Thimbleberries/Moda) I have yet to decide on the final layout for this quilt. Keep in mind that the blocks in the picture have not been sewn. I just placed them out on the bed with the background fabric to give an idea of the look. I would certainly hope that my sewing is not this wonky. *lol*

The second project is my sentimental favorite and will end up taking the most time. Mam Maw P gave me a large boot box full of fabric pieces that are "too small" for her to work with. (She is almost 87 and her eyesight is not what it used to be.) Amazingly quite a bit of the fabric is vintage 1930's. I secretly wished that the fabric was whole, but honestly if it was I don't think I would be able to bring myself to cut any of it. At least this way it is guaranteed to turn into a quilt. I have trimmed most of the pieces into 2.5" squares in order to "square them up".

My idea here is to make a 9 patch block using the 2.5" fabrics. Instead of using a plain or print border between the blocks, I plan on sewing together strips of 2" squares.

This will make a very scrappy quilt, a style that I love. I am hoping to make this a true charm quilt with no fabric duplicates. Unfortunately, it is likely to take me years to collect enough fabric to do this. I may end up duplicating squares just to keep it from becoming a UFO. I may also use borders around the outside to increase the size of the quilt without duplicating any fabrics.