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."