Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas: A Time for Celebration

Christmas is a special time of the year when we bring in a tree from outdoors and in lighting it bring joy to the season at a time when it is dark by 4 p.m. In grammar school, the Christmas season would begin with the Advent Calendar. I do not recall how the calendar was constructed and I have since seen many variations but it is a way to count down the 25 days leading up to the Big Day.

"Patti" in 1955 with tea set, Jill the doll, and a Chimpanzee

Our house was always bustling with activity and guests in December. My godfather would stop by with his daughters to bring me a gift, often a "society" doll that wasn't meant to be played with. My aunts and their families frequently visited. The brunt of the work in preparing a holiday for six family members fell on my mother. She would be busy making fruitcake, Stollen, and Christmas cookies. Somehow, she also knew that Santa preferred Coconut Layer Cake with jelly or jam between the layers, frosted with white icing.

We always had a turkey on the holiday and loads of pies: Custard, Mincemeat, Apple, Pumpkin, and Chocolate Cream Pie. You can see that Mother was busy in the kitchen, in addition to all the holiday shopping she did for our family and extended relatives.

Santa cross-stitch that I made years ago

My oldest brother "Jack" listened for the hooves of Santa's reindeer on the roof and would lay bug-eyed until that happened. Then he would wake up his younger brother who shared the same bedroom and together they would go downstairs to see what Santa had left. Somehow, they never managed to catch "Santa" leaving the presents under the tree!

Our tree was a "real" one. I am not even sure if artificial trees were manufactured at that time (1950s). We would load it down with garlands and tinsel that looked like icicles and lots of shiny ornaments and old tin ones that my mother had had for ages. Under the tree would be a ceramic manger scene and on the fireplace our stockings were hung.

Santa ceramic Christmas card holder made by me in 1973

All sorts of small items would appear in our stockings. I always enjoyed finding a new finger puzzle, a piece of jewelry, candy bars and candy canes, chewing gum, and an orange in the toe of the stocking. Santa was very imaginative but also practical. He left a new toothbrush every year.

Growing up, I had no idea of how other people celebrated the holiday or whether or not they celebrated at all. It has been fascinating to learn how the day is celebrated in other countries. Rick Steeve's European videos give a good idea of some of the festivities, especially in Austria.  When I lived in Spain, I learned that most people there do not celebrate Christmas with gifts. They wait until January 6, the Epiphany or Feast of the Three Kings, to exchange presents. In 1972, I celebrated Christmas by traveling around Granada by myself, a college student on winter break.

However you celebrate the holidays, I hope they are happy days for you. Music certainly adds to the merriment as do your own special traditions.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Origin of "The Weaver" poem

I recently received a Sympathy card that has lines that have been rearranged and is presented as a poem called "The Plan of the Master Weaver." In copying the lines of the original poem, the name of the author has been lost and even a Google search could not come up with his name. I have a book that he wrote. Here is the original poem he wrote.

"The Weaver”: A Poem

A contemporary of Ellen Emeline Hardy Webster (1867-1950) was Rev. Grant Colfax Tuller (1869-1950), a minister in New Jersey. Her was born two years after Mrs. Webster and died the same year. Like her, he was religious and the following poem is written from that point of view.

The Weaver

My life is but a weaving
Between the Lord and me
I may not choose the colors;
He knows what they should be;
For He can view the pattern
Upon the upper side,
While I can see it only,
on this, the underside.

Sometimes He weaveth sorrow
Which seems strange to me;
But I will trust His judgment
And work on faithfully
'Tis He who fills the shuttle;
He knows just what is best;
So I shall weave in earnest
And leave Him the rest.

Not till the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas,
And explain the reasons why
the dark threads are as needful,
In the weaver's skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

From the look of the images seen online, there have been a number of Sympathy cards produced that feature lines from this poem. Just goes to show that what is old is new again!

Patricia Cummings

Monday, November 20, 2017

Late Fall Musings

Winter is almost upon us. My husband Jim has put the garden to bed for the winter, removing all spent flowers and foliage and cutting back the raspberry canes to the ground. Almost every day wild turkeys can be seen meandering through our yard. They discovered the crab apple tree several days ago, perhaps remembering it from last year. This year the blossoms were beautiful and the fruit abundant.

This beauty wandered into our yard in 2008

We have not seen deer in the yard for several years now. Just as well. The only attraction for them in dead winter are the very nutritious rose hips that cling to the rosebushes that line our front fence. They will wade through the deep snow to get at those. Mostly, in the winter, deer stay together in small areas in the woods where there is browse available such as hemlock trees, a favorite winter food for deer.

The other day I was upset to see a video on Facebook which showed deer eating fruit from a table set up for them. It is best NOT to feed deer or wildlife in the winter. Their digestive systems have already adjusted to a lesser food supply and they can actually die from a sudden change in diet. Also, it is best to leave them alone and not make them reliant on human sources for food. They do better if they do not have to expend energy in traveling.

Christmas quilt by Patricia Cummings / design by Marti Michel

I once made a Christmas quilt featuring deer panels in a Double Irish Chain setting. I gave the quilt away and now wish I had it back as it was one of my favorites! The designer of the quilt is Marti Michel and I found the pattern in a quilt book.

With Thanksgiving just several days away, now is the time that my thoughts turn to the holidays. I have a quilt that needs to be pieced. I have the parts cut but have not taken the time to make it. With that particular quilt (a tee-shirt quilt), which involves fusing, I have procrastinated successfully for two years now. Somehow, I do not believe that that quilt will make it under the tree this year either.

I read today that millions of people have given up quilting. This may be a trend. It may be associated with so many quilt magazines going out of business, The Quilter included and also another favorite, Miniature Quilts. I have kept all the back issues of the latter (and of course, all of the 92 articles I wrote for The Quilter). I do miss writing for the magazine!

Bird seed wreath attracts junkos, chickadees and other small birds

With winter closing in, I will be in my den continuing to hand-quilt on my big hearth hoop. I am still working on a queen size, all-white, Welsh design, wholecloth quilt. I listen to music as I quilt. This week it has been Andrea Boccelli and Paul Pasch. The den is really quiet otherwise, removed from the sound of traffic that passes by my home daily (30,000 cars). The room faces the back woods where a stream attracts wildlife and birds. Soon I shall make my bird seed wreath which hangs too high for bears to reach. I will wait until there is snow on the ground and the bears are safely hibernating in their own cozy dens!

Here's to a wonderful Thanksgiving for you and your loved ones as we give thanks for all that is in God's world and our many blessings!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sweetheart & Mother Pillows

Last Friday night I was invited to present a program on the topic of Sweetheart & Mother Pillows (also the title of my book) at the Capital Quilters Guild in Concord, New Hampshire. I was thrilled that there was a good turn-out for this event. I provided a brief background about how I came to collect so many pillow covers and write about them and then I showed 30 slides of various examples of pillow covers from World War I, World War II, and the years of the Civilian Conservation Camps. I ended by showing a pillow quilt composed of 20 pillow covers.

After my talk, many people came up to congratulate me and say how much they enjoyed it. Some purchased my book. I feel very grateful for such an outpouring of warmth and appreciation. I had not given any talks in quite awhile, the last one being in my home town of Deerfield, NH (on this same subject). Someone asked me if I was now going to "do the circuit." Hardly. I came out of "retirement" to provide this program.

In preparing for the presentation, I must have re-read my book about five or six times, learning more each time I picked it up. The captions, though tiny, are packed with information. I suggested using a magnifying glass. I know mine comes in handy, even though I have 20/20 close-up vision with glasses. Even if someone did not want to "read" the whole book, the 247 beautiful color photos are a compelling reason to purchase it. Each photo represents a piece of history.

Souvenir de France:  two soldiers march victorious through the
Champs de Llysses in Paris. This is hand-painted silk with ribbon
work. Collection of Patricia Cummings

I did a search online to see who else was selling my book. I found one person in Australia that is selling it for $80 plus dollars including postage. Someone in Portsmouth has it listed for over $100 dollars and there are many other prices in between, depending on where one looks. I still have copies of the book available and can customize them for holiday giving by signing them. My price is the original retail price of just $24.99. Of course, I do charge $3 dollars for shipping. To inquire, please write to me at

The books serves as an historical document with anecdotes and descriptions of generals and enlisted men alike. It is also a price guide, providing a suggested range of price for each pillow cover. There is a chapter on care and conservation of these historic vintage and antique textiles. No one else has ever written a book about them so my book is a landmark study. It truly is beautiful and honors all branches of the military except that I could find no U.S. Coast Guard pillow covers until after the book was published. Even the Merchant Marines under the U.S. Maritime Service are included.

My sister standing next to a carved bear at Mancos State Park in Colorado

Recently I lost my sister, Barbara. She was a cheerleader for all of my efforts in writing. I sorely miss her but you know, as I gave that talk Friday night, I did feel as though an "angel on my shoulder" was helping it to go smoothly. As I was remembering the brave veterans who sacrificed so much for our country, I was also thinking of her, a veteran of life who had overcome so many storms until she met one that was too much to surpass.

"Pride of Nation" wool pillow cover from World War I. Please disregard
the url for Quilter's Muse Publication website page which has been discontinued.

I am thankful for the opportunity to share the story of some of the beautiful pillow covers I have collected. I really do enjoy presenting, which hails back to my training as a teacher of Spanish  (and quilting). Maybe that is the last time I shall do anything like that or perhaps not. It is always hard to predict what life has in store for any of us. We must seize the day (carpe diem) and make the most of all that life has to offer!

Patricia Cummings

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Heartbreaking News Coming Out of Houston

Although the people of Texas had ample warning, many of them decided to stay in place and weather out the storm. A group of people seen on television were drinking beer as they made the pronouncement that they would not be driven away by the storm. I wonder what happened to them.

The most startling image I have seen was a room inside a nursing home where residents sat with water higher than their waists. I since learned that they were successfully evacuated. My heart goes out to those with medical problems or who have small children or pets. During Hurricane Katrina, thousands of pets perished. Already, people have lost their lives as a result of this natural catastrophy.

An official on television said they are not even counting the dead. Instead, all of the efforts are geared toward saving the lives of the living and getting people to safe havens. With thousands of phone calls coming in to 911 lines, I would hate to be the operator who has to decide how to prioritize requests.

Evidently, Rockport, TX suffered a tornado as well as flooding. I believe it is true that it will take years and billions of dollars to rebuild the damage done by Hurricane Harvey.

In the midst of the storm, other storms were brewing in Washington. I want to weigh in as being totally against the presidential pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He was very mean and acted in a very bigoted fashion toward the prisoners under his care in Arizona, subjecting them to inhumane treatment that may have led to the wrongful deaths of several of them. Believe me, even if a Mexican were stupid, he could understand the words "stupid Mexican." Another favorite term for illegal immigrants was "wetbacks." Arpaio was found to be criminally in contempt of court for his continued racial profiling since 2011. Yet, he continued on his dastardly mission of terrorizing the Hispanic community. He was not even yet sentenced when Trump issued the pardon.

There is injustice in this world, some coming from a Higher Source, and some coming from our current administration. There is just a lot wrong with the way some people think! It is probably a very good thing that Trump is going to wait to go to Texas. He can add nothing but confusion, and expense for such a trip.

It will be a long time before Texas gets back on its feet. The storm itself will be around until next Thursday. The storms in Washington are also ongoing as political games are played by a petulant president who will do anything to get his own way (and he thinks, get re-elected). I hope that the country can come to its senses and realize the game being played of "divide and conquer." Trump's world is one of "us" and "them." Even while he is denouncing hatred, his actions tell a greater tale.

I do not usually veer into politics on this blog but the recent events have caused me to speak what is in my heart. I will continue to wish for the best for all Texans and others caught in the storm and I will continue to pray that we can one day have a president whom all can respect for his fairness, his benevolence, and his charity toward all.