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 The block was called "Snowball" by Donald Beld in his pattern for a Civil War reproduction quilt originally made in Vermont and given to the U.S. Sanitary Commission.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.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Keepsake Quilting Closing its Doors in NH

When we were notified by e-mail in mid-November that Keepsake Quilting was planning to close its Centre Harbor, NH location, we went there immediately and still found plenty of merchandise, mostly at 30% off. The store has been my go-to site for quality fabric and notions for decades. It has seen many ups and downs since Judy Sabanek first opened the store. Later it sold to one corporation after the other, losing a little bit of ground, it seems, with each buy-out. Nonetheless, I had great hopes that the store would continue indefinitely. It was not meant to be.

The new owners also own Pineapple Fabrics that is based in North Carolina. The plan is to keep the online sales and catalog sales going (under the name of Keepsake Quilting). The business can be reached at:

Today, it being a sunny, late January day, we decided to take a ride up to Centre Harbor. I was not mentally-prepared to see most of the store closed down and about 20 bolts of print fabric, a few patterns, and a bin of Aurifil thread as all that was left. The plan was to close operations on Feb. 27. The store clerk said they will close as soon as they run out of what is left, maybe as early as this Saturday. I bought two yards of a fabric that struck my fancy and got $16. and change back from a twenty dollar bill. The fabric was marked at 80% off. Such a bargain!

There were no smiles today in the store. I suppose the remaining personnel will be out of work as soon as the store finally closes its doors for good.

Keepsake Quilting has always been a destination and a place where I took friends who visited me from all over the country. It was a quilter's paradise! So sorry to see it go! It is like losing a friend. One may not see that friend too often but one feels terrible when finding out that the friend has passed on. It's the end of an era!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Christmas Shopping on Elm Street

In the 1950s when I was a child, Christmas shopping meant a trip to downtown Manchester, New Hampshire where the stores were wall to wall and decked out in their finest. Christmas Eve was the most exciting time to get on a bus and head to the heart of the city. I remember shopping with my mother. We would always go to Pariseau's, Leavitt's and Hill's, all dry goods stores where mother could buy on credit in those days before bank-issued credit cards. At Pariseau's she would go directly to the "basement" where all the mark-downs were located. With so many people to remember with gifts, any bargain was welcome.

A favorite store to browse in was Woolworth's Five and Dime. It was exciting to see the baby turtles they sold and over the years, I owned several of them. I had a plastic turtle "pond" that had a raised, dry area where the turtle could escape the water and also eat the raw hamburger I fed it. That was in the days before the scare of salmonella infections stopped the sale of the little guys.

Woolworth's had doilies, table runners and pillowcases and they sold embroidery thread. I loved working on those small embroidery projects! They also sold used postage stamps in big envelopes. I had a huge stamp collector's book and delighted in the many beautiful stamps. So on these expeditions out shopping, Mother would indulge me in some small purchase. We also indulged in a hot fudge sundae at the wonderful ice cream counter they had in the store. That was the best hot fudge in the world!

Of course, while the bulk of Christmas shopping fell to my mother, my Dad could complete his gift buying (for Mother) in one fell swoop. He'd simply visit LeMay's Jewelers which was conveniently located right near his office on Elm Street. My mother did a lot of holiday shopping at Moreau's, a hardware store that carried fancy glassware, casserole and serving dishes, candy dishes, etc.

Often, we would meet relatives who were also doing last minute shopping. Of course, that was only the beginning of the evening. Once home, the gift wrapping would continue. Over the years and at more affluent times, Mother got in the habit of collecting potential gifts during the year. Buying "gifties," as she called them, over time, makes more sense than frenzied shopping at the last minute.

Honestly, I don't know how she was able to get everything done what with all of her holiday baking, rounding up four children and making sure they were dressed nicely to attend Midnight Mass. Did I mention that Mother held a full-time job during the week? She would always start thinking about Christmas baking at Thanksgiving time when she would begin macerating fruit in rum with which she would make homemade fruitcakes! She always made a yeast sweet bread called Stollen, as did her Austrian ancestors, which is a lot of work! Then, there were the usual cookies and always a Coconut layer cake with peach preserves in the center. Mother loved to bake!

In the age before Shopping Malls and online shopping, Christmas shopping was a challenge! It meant having to physically go to individual stores in person and pick out gifts, one at a time.

Elm Street in Manchester is one of the coldest streets in the world in the winter! The North Wind blows down the street and brutally attacks anyone who is not prepared for the cold that it brings. Mother never learned how to drive, so without the opportunity to take a bus, we never would have been shopping together on Christmas Eve!

Times have changed considerably. Now the number of homeless people who live in city parks and hang out on the streets of Manchester make shopping the downtown area less desirable. The drug problem and the crime that is often the result of that has also infiltrated the city. For me, as a little kid, I felt safe shopping on Elm Street at night. People were honest and all there with a common purpose: to buy gifts for loved ones. I have only good memories of childhood Christmases but I realize now that much of what I remember was from the work and sacrifices of one person:  my Mother!

Here's hoping that you enjoy the holiday season and don't get so busy worrying about little things that you forget the meaning of the season:  love! Have a peaceful and joyous time whatever your beliefs or lack thereof. I love everything about Christmas especially the tree, the ornaments, the special foods, the music, gift giving, and the chance to be with the people I love! Joy to you!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Man Who

Back in the 1960s, my Dad served as clerk to the Board of Selectmen in a small New Hampshire town. On one occasion, he was to drop off some paperwork to one of the Selectmen at his home. Upon approaching the door, Dad noticed that the door was open with just a screen door in place. Shortly, he heard a woman's voice calling "Man Who," "Man Who." Dad did not know what to make of this strange call out. He knocked on the door and soon the lady of the house appeared. She explained that she was calling her cat and that she named him "Man Who" after listening to all the political pundits on television claiming they were the man who did this or that. Dad came away chuckling. He always did enjoy humor.

Humor seems to be what is lacking in our current election process. The Democratic debates showed no levity whatsoever. Not that there is a lot to laugh or joke about in today's America. We all know the problems and they seem to only be getting worse.

I like to think of the 1960s. There was much civil disobedience, much vocalization when it came to folksingers speaking out and singing out their hearts, trying to call the status quo into some kind of accountability. There was hope, too. "We Shall Overcome" and "Not Gonna Study War No More" were two of the more popular songs. Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were oh so young back then, just "kids" really but people with a social conscience.

When I think of it, folk music has always been the voice of the common folk who have been concerned with issues bigger than themselves. Whether the topic was prison ("Midnight Special" or "Folsom Prison Blues") or the war in Vietnam, there was a song addressed to the issue.

A yellow rose, the symbol of insincerity but beautiful just the same. Let's hope for sincerity and truth in our politics. Rose photo by James Cummings taken in our garden.

Every Sunday night my husband and I have a "date" to do some coloring in my studio while we listen to the New Hampshire Folk Show on National Public Radio. Last week's offerings included many songs that had references to the city of Baltimore, nostalgic thoughts, all. The songs were appropriate due to the previous week's slammings by Tweet by the official Tweeter-in-chief which demonized the city as "rat-infested" and a place "where no one would want to live." These thoughts were followed up with personal attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings who is from Baltimore in retribution for political discourse. The songs leveled the playing field a bit, giving voice in a sense to a city under attack.

Baltimore has always been a fine city and in the mid-19th century, the place where the famed "Baltimore Album" quilts were made and presented to departing Methodist ministers. These quilts are some of the most prized in the world and have, in some instances, been duplicated by members of the Baltimore Applique Society (and other quilters) who wanted a challenge.

We need to start seeing the good in places and in each other. We need to bring back communal laughter which could bring on a sense of well-being again. Not laughter in a jeering and hateful manner but perhaps laughter at our own human condition, bringing on a sense that we are all in this life together and need to make the most of that fact.

And so, I leave you with my memory of a cat named "The Man Who." Let's hope that the results of the next election will bring us the man or the woman who can turn this country in a different direction.