Friday, February 9, 2018

Downsizing: A Current Trend?

When I wonder why quilting is seemingly losing popularity at the moment, I have to look no further than to the current trend of people downsizing. In general, there are a lot of big, old, drafty houses on the market that are not moving while smaller more tidy homes are in high demand. Could it be that those of retirement age are seeking to get rid of many of their belongings and no longer need or want so much space? Quilting can take up a lot of space, that is for sure! And fabrics and finished quilts need a place to "live."

The Danes and Swedes have the right idea when it comes to making comfortable spaces in a home with only the things they truly love and want to keep in their lives. Swedes engage in a practice known as "death cleaning." That means disposing of items so that your relatives will not be burdened with the effort. It is a matter of being thoughtful. Really, who has time to go through tons of paperwork, books, and other items and decide what to keep and what to sell or simply throw away? It seems that a lot of treasures could be lost or overlooked.

When my mother suddenly went into a nursing home, the task of cleaning out her house and getting it ready for market fell to me. She had already put many items in an auction and sold pieces of furniture but had kept boxes of goods. Some things were easy to toss, like used egg cartons. Yes, she was a survivor of the Great Depression and a "hoarder." But, as I went through other things, I had to make split second decisions on what to keep. My cellar is now lined with shelves upon which sits boxes of mother's goods - all too good to throw away. We kept items that I wanted to further consider.

Mother collected ceramics and dishware. She had a real affection for china tea cups and little knickknacks. I have many of them now displayed in my kitchen along with the ones she gave me as a child. As far as collections go, I have some collections of my own, like pincushions, old quilts that I bought to write about, tons of quilt books, and lots of quilting fabrics. All of this takes up a lot of space. What to do to begin the painful task of downsizing?

One friend suggests giving books away. The local library will take novels if it is the season of their book sale. Books that can be considered "textbooks" are another matter. My books are mainly non-fiction and many are instructive in the art of quilting. I believe I collected all of the books listed on the suggested master craftsman in quilting reading list when I was busy earning that certification (completed in 2000). My books would appeal only to a select audience which makes it more difficult to properly pass them on.

I am also drowning in photos! For years we went to quilt shows and took pictures of quilts I liked best for inspiration. Not to mention all of the notebooks full of slides of quilts that we took for publication before the magazine accepted digital photos.

I wish I could wave a wand and easily place all of items in my life that I no longer need, would never use again, or would never re-read. One friend suggested making quilts for charity with unused fabric. I would not know where to start! I do have to put on my thinking cap and come up with some solutions, hopefully sooner than later.

If any of my readers have any good suggestions for how to downsize or the name of any good book on the subject, I would love to hear from you. I take comfort that some of my friends have successfully mainstreamed their lives a bit and have moved into smaller quarters.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Two Years Already?

This morning I posted to Facebook that it had been a year since I made a quilt for Hillary Clinton. Then I got to thinking. Just to be certain, I looked it up in my diary and yes, two years have already passed. The new person in the White House has been in place for one year!

My tribute quilt for Hillary Clinton in red, black and white finished in August 2016
 and given to her in person in January 2016.

I heard on the news last night that there was a fire at Hillary Clinton's home in New York. As it turns out, the fire was contained to an outbuilding, thank goodness. I hope the quilt is still safe. She sent me a very nice thank you note for the quilt and for the copy of my book Sweetheart & Mother Pillows.

This coming year I hope to do a lot more quilting than I did in 2017. I would also like to re-visit some embroidery techniques. Currently, I am still hand quilting on a queen size, all-white, wholecloth quilt. I listen to a music CD while quilting or sometimes two CDs. It is coming along. I have several other projects in progress that I have not touched in awhile. Of course, I am making a special quilt for my son that is taking longer than anticipated.

Hope you all are enjoying 2018! We are under heavy snow conditions today and it is very cold and has been for days now. It helps that I am married to an optimist who has already planned out his garden for next year and has even ordered the seeds! Think green and flowers. It may help you to get through these long days and nights of being housebound because of the weather. I speak for myself!

Happy Quilting!

Patricia Cummings
January 4, 2018

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!