Monday, May 18, 2020

Adult Coloring

I was introduced to the idea of adult coloring at the senior center in my hometown. It was set up as an activity for people to do while the knitting group carried on in the same room. The seniors coordinator provided gel pens, colored pencils and a treasure trove of coloring books and loose pages presumably printed from the Internet.

After telling a friend of my new interest, she bought me a set of 36 colored pencils and later gave me a set of gel pens. My husband, who had taken an art course at (adult education) at the high school, had acquired a nice set of Prismacolor pencils. He has since ordered more art supplies such as flesh-colored pencils for doing faces. He also bought me some earth-tone gel pens on amazon. All in all, we are well-stocked with coloring supplies.

We have a "date" every Sunday night. We color in my studio while listening to the Folk Show on National Public Radio. Music is a good background for our artistic efforts. It is not as easy as it looks to choose appropriate colors.

Recently, Better Day Books offered a free coloring book to download. It has quarantine themes and words related to "flattening the curve," etc. So far, I have finished two of the coloring pages. Here is the second one.

I like the message. "It's a Good Day to Have a Better Day." We could all use better days these days. We are tired of the stay-at-home order and limited access to businesses. It is unlikely that we will ever get back to "normal" again, or so it seems. There is hope of a vaccine and limited testing has been done so far. A vaccine is our only hope of resuming all activities as we once knew them and even then, many of us will approach public activities with caution as our brains have been programmed to fear being with other people. For now, we can only make the most of Today and try, against all odds, to have a better day!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Cloth Dolls to Love

Today I am going to show you a collection of cloth dolls I collected a few years ago. I purchased them at an antiques shop. They are small, printed and embroidered, and each has a number at the bottom. I am wondering if anyone has any information about them (such as who the print manufacturer was and when they were printed). They are really charming! The "backs" are printed and embroidered, too. Hope you enjoy seeing them. All photos were taken by James Cummings.

There are seven of them in all. The boy with the dog and watermelons and the man playing a banjo make me think of these dolls as having a southern theme. They will all be going to a good home - to a collector of cloth dolls. I hope she enjoys them as much as I have!

Please leave a comment if you have any further information about them. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Remembrances of Spain

Spain has been one of the hardest hit countries with corona virus. I have very good memories of living in the country while attending the university in Pamplona. The people are very warm and welcoming. I recall a peasant family who sat across from me on a train headed south when I chose to do some sightseeing over Christmas break. The family offered to share their loaf of bread with me although they clearly had very little themselves.

When I first arrived there to take a month long course in Spanish that I would encounter in various disciplines, depending on which courses I chose for the academic year, I was in class with other international students. Two of them became good friends. Chieko, a girl friend (from Japan) asked me to teach her more English even though she knew English pretty well. Whenever we were together, we conversed in Spanish. Masayuki was a Japanese boy in my class who offered to walk me home whenever it was raining. Although he was much shorter than me, he had an umbrella and would hold it high so I wouldn't get wet. He was so kind!

My first apartment was on the outskirts of town in a new high-rise (three stories high). In Spain, widows often rent out extra rooms in their apartments to students. Such was the case with both apartments where I lived. My first landlady kicked me out so that she could have three priests move in with her. She cooked for them at a local monastery. She was very nice but needed the income and I could not find other students who needed a place to live which left two bedrooms vacant.
The second apartment is one that I moved into with Pat, a woman (fellow student) from Australia. The landlady was elderly and suffered from very swollen legs. At Thanksgiving time, she and Pat put their heads together and made a special meal for me consisting of roast chicken, white asparagus, olives, and other foods, as well as flan for dessert.

I loved my travels through southern Spain checking out La Alhambra (an old Moorish castle), the cathedrals (which have a lot of beautiful sculptures and paintings), and the usual tourist attractions. The paella that I ate in Sevilla was memorable! At the university, I signed up for the History of Spanish Art and Architecture and German. I loved my studies.

Come February, I was back home and doing my student teaching at a NH high school. It is fun to revisit these memories of when I was young (21). I earned a certificate of "sobresaliente" for my university work (A+). I met lots of friends at the university including Gigi from Puerto Rico who lived in the equivalent of a dorm (which served meals and also had its own chapel). She often invited me for lunch and for the tertulia (meeting of friends with conversation and guitar music). That's where I learned a lot of Spanish songs. It was all a lot of fun!

What Would Mom Do?

In the wee hours of the morning, when I could not sleep, I got up and sat in my recliner and thought about my mother and how she would have reacted to the current crisis. In particular, I recalled one night when she was staying with us toward the end of her life. She had dementia and would wander at night. That night I found her sitting on the living room couch. I sat down next to her and in the poignancy of the moment and the stillness of the dark room, I started to cry realizing that she would not be with us much longer and would have to be institutionalized for her own safety and well-being. I put my head on her knee and she stroked my head, telling me not to cry and that it would be alright. Neither she nor I knew the heartache that would come for both of us as a result of her illness. She did not like being in a "home" and I felt guilty and sad that she needed to be there but it was what it was and there was no changing the course of events as they transpired.

Today I am feeling the same kind of vague anxiety about the future. None of us has a crystal ball that can predict who will get the much-dreaded corona virus that is killing thousands of Americans. We have government officials that are basically leaving interventions and guidelines up to the state governments. The federal government seems more interested in upholding private corporation's ability to make money from this situation. We are assured that things will get better but at what cost of life in the meantime?

My mother lived through the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. She suffered through the Great Depression and all of the sacrifices people were asked to make during World War II. She worked at a factory, making $12.50 per week from the time she was a sophomore in high school and forced by her family to quit school for the much needed income and she worked there for 12 years until she married in 1937. At least her family of origin (13 people in all) was resourceful. Her father had a large garden and her mother and the three oldest siblings helped by canning food. Later in life, she came down with the Hong Kong flu and nearly hemorrhaged to death and would have died, had I not been on hand to call an ambulance.

Yes, Mom managed to escape death from several pandemics. She maintained a good attitude of "It's going to be alright!" Even though that word, "alright," may mean different things and may represent various outcomes, I can tell you that she lived to be 92, having outlived two of her children.

Somehow, the remembrance of her words soothes my soul. Like her, I feel that I am a survivor, having gone through a number of miserable experiences in my own life. For today, and in the comfort of my own home with no place to go and nothing to do but creative and intellectual pursuits, I believe her words. No matter the outcome, life will go on. The daffodils will still come up in the spring, the dandelions will blossom like clockwork, and people will live or die according to a Divine Plan of which we cannot know or imagine. "All is right with my soul," as the old hymn says.

Patricia Cummings
April 2020

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Job's Troubles Revisited

This past week I mentioned that I had found a reference to the "Job's Troubles" quilt block in a research notebook I had prepared. The block was called "Snowball" by Donald Beld in his pattern for a Civil War reproduction quilt originally made in Vermont and given to the U.S. Sanitary Commission. In my previous post, I mis-cited an entry found in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Patterns which lists "Snowball" and "Job's Troubles" as alternate names but shows an entirely different drawing than the "Snowball" block used in the Civil War quilt.

This reproduction of a Sanitary Commission quilt made by Patricia Cummings has two sets of blocks: plain ones with Biblical inscriptions and pieced ones called "Job's Troubles." The original quilt was made by Caroline Fairbanks.

The Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns by Jinny Beyer has a colored diagram called "Job's Troubles" that corresponds to the block seen in the quilt by Caroline Fairbanks that I mentioned. The block was published by Clara Stone in Practical Needlework, ca. 1906. This date post-dates the Civil War time frame but do we really know the name that Fairbanks had called the block? To me, the name "Job's Troubles" makes a lot of sense because the quilt is religiously-based, containing quotes from the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, etc. Today, we know the alternate block which includes an octagonal shape as "Snowball." I postulate that it could have been known much earlier as "Job's Troubles." I have not yet checked other encyclopedic sources for quilt blocks which I have on hand.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020


I just finished making a Twiddlemuff from an Australian pattern from an unknown source. (I modified the pattern a bit). A Twiddlemuff is a circular, knitted tube onto which embellishments such as buttons and pompoms are sewn. Once in the hands of an Alzheimer's patient, the person can have fun touching and fiddling with the embellishments.

Twiddlemuff by Patricia Cummings; photo by James Cummings

I adhered to the instructions, using bulky yarn. I did not own any "fancy" textured yarns to add in for interest's sake. I used straight needles, size 10 U.S., and cast on 45 stitches. I first knit an 11" inch "cuff" and then 23" more in various colored yarns in a stocking stitch. The long sides get joined together on the purl side. Then, the tube is turned inside out and the two ends are stuffed in to make a final length of 16 inches. The ends are tacked in place with the addition of embellishments, securely sewn on. Due to choking hazards should an embellishment come loose, the Twiddlemuff should only be used under supervision. I took extra care on securing the buttons, etc.

After the initial 11" of the same yarn, I alternated colors in blocks of 4" with 2" of ivory yarn in between each color. I had never sewn purl sides together before and I benefited from watching an instructional video on Google. I like every project I make to be a learning experience!

I plan to donate the finished item to a county nursing home in hopes that an Alzheimer's patient there will enjoy it. Both ends of the cuff are open, allowing the person to insert a hand in either end. I feel good about finishing the project. It cost about $25. between the price of the bulky yarns and the embellishments. I hope some poor soul will get some happiness out of using it.