Thursday, August 16, 2018

Knitted Scarf and Hat for Homeless Program

Knitted scarf with crocheted edge and a hat 

This is a photo of a knitted scarf and coordinating hat I made for a homeless child. The set will be distributed to a needy child by one of the Concord, NH school bus drivers. The senior center in Concord has a knitting program and I was provided with (donated) yarn and needles for working on this project.

I am not the world's greatest knitter but I am willing to improve my skills. I found some good information about how to sew the back seam together on the hat, and how to hide the ends of the knitting yarn, by using Google which provided video tutorials.

The small group of knitters meets once per month and anyone who is over 60 years old and is signed up with a (free) senior passport (computerized card) is welcome to attend. There is no fee for a passport if one is a resident of Concord but there is a fee of $50. dollars for non-residents. With winter approaching, we could benefit from more knitters knitting for the Coalition to End Homelessness. With the passport, one can participate in most all of the activities for seniors with the exception of special lectures or events that come with a charge.

Always Learning

With every project I make, I learn something new and such was the case with this one. I really enjoyed working with the variegated yarn (pink, cream, gray, and magenta) for the scarf. I am just amazed that I was able to finish making these two items inasmuch as I had not knit anything in years.

Pat studying in pink quilted sweater she made. Old photo from the 1960s

When I was a teenager, I learned basic knitting skills in 4-H. I made a sweater and then attempted a more complex sweater, Norwegian style, with lots of yarn color changes and it was a dismal failure. The yoke top I had knit too tight and it buckled when I tried to wear it. With that discouragement, I took up other crafts and never did make another sweater for myself, although I did make a cute cable knit sweater for my nephew who was a toddler at the time. That one even had buttonholes!


In summary, it is just really fun to get together with folks who have the same interests and to meet new people. The senior program is just getting going in a new facility (the old Dame School which has been totally renovated). There is a nice, air-conditioned indoor track where walkers can walk three times per week. Four times around the gym is equal to 1/4 mile! In addition, there is the possibility of playing cribbage, bridge, ping pong and doing adult coloring; as well as going out to lunch as a group, participating in field trips, and/or attending the monthly senior luncheon.

There is a book club, fitness classes for seniors, and more! On October 1, 2018, I am scheduled to present a talk on Sweetheart & Mother Pillows, based on my book by the same name. It is fun and exciting to have the Community Wide Center available via Concord Parks & Recreation. Thanks to Becky Bukowski for being the coordinator for senior activities! She can be reached at (603) 230-4982, M-W-F, 9-1.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Mystery Weaver Uncovered

By request, I am posting this article that was originally published in 2005 on my Quilter's Muse Publications website.

Master Researcher Donna-Belle Garvin Uncovers the Mystery Identity of a Prolific 19th Century New Hampshire Weaver

by Patricia L. Cummings

Hannah Leathers Wilson (1787-1869) and her unique woven “weft-loop” coverlets, in either all white, or blue and white colors, were the topic of a lecture given by Donna-Belle Garvin at NH Historical Society’s Tuck Library on Park Street in Concord in 2005. Since 1990, Garvin, the museum’s former curator and editress of the museum’s publication  Historical New Hampshire, has meticulously researched the life of Wilson and her work as a weaver for three decades in Farmington, NH, from early to mid-19th century.

A chance encounter at a laundromat between Garvin and a former Smithsonian employee and local antiques and rug dealer is responsible for her 15 year long quest to find out more about Wilson. The dealer had said that he thought that a coverlet he had in his possession was “important.” He stated that inasmuch as he was planning a move back to Washington, he was not sure what to do with certain items in his care including the coverlet. At the time he asked if the Historical Society might like his "candlewick" spread.

Time passed. Suddenly one day, the man called Garvin to ask if the coverlet could be picked up right away. He explained that the shop was having its final sale. He seemed eager to get the coverlet to a secure location. He explained that he did not want anything to happen to it.

Not needing a second invitation, Garvin rushed to the shop. The dealer had mentioned that the coverlet may have come from either New Hampshire or Maine. Optimistic, Garvin was hoping for a New Hampshire provenance. Otherwise, it would have had to be turned over to the Maine Historical Society.

True to all the other coverlets that have been located and which are attributed to Wilson, a name appears on the back. In this case, the name was “Rosamon Dame.” In addition, there is a date, and a number.

In searching genealogy records, Garvin found Rosamon listed as having been born in Newington, NH. Later, she moved to Farmington, NH. As the researcher points out, those two towns will keep reappearing throughout this coverlet investigation.

Rhoda Ann Leighton Coverlet Discovered in Collection

For the fun of it, Garvin decided to look through the NHHS files to see if any similar coverlets had been catalogued as part of the collection. She found that the NH Historical Society already owned one in blue and white, rather than just plain white. That had been donated in 1941 and had arrived with quite a provenance.

This blue and white coverlet has the name “Rhoda Ann Leighton,” the date, and a number. Further research revealed that Rhoda Ann grew up in West Farmington, and then lived in Milton, both Strafford County locations near the Maine border. In realizing the geographical proximity of these towns to Maine, Garvin could not help but remember the dealer’s remark that his coverlet had possibly come from Maine.

Mary C. Leighton Coverlet

Soon after, Ron Bourgeault, an auctioneer of antiques, offered for sale a blue and white Wilson coverlet dated 1841, and advertised it in a flier. Garvin discovered that this particular coverlet had belonged to Rhoda Ann’s third cousin who had lived next door to Rhoda Ann’s grandparents. A picture of community and familial relationships was beginning to emerge as more and more coverlets were located.

Due to lack of storage space at the time (before the new museum facility was built), and aware of not wanting near-duplicates to the collection, the NH Historical Society passed on bidding.

Quest to Locate More Coverlets

Since 1990, Garvin has sought (and found) additional examples of coverlets woven by Wilson. They have been located at the Smithsonian, the Museum of American Folk Art, the Shelburne Museum, Old Sturbridge Village, the Wadsworth Atheneum, and the Columbus (Ohio) Museum of Art. Recently, one was acquired by the American Textile History Museum.

Book Uncovers Three More Examples of Wilson’s Work

The book, America’s Quilts and Coverlets by Carleton L. Safford and Robert Bishop (New York: Weathervane Books, 1974) shows photos of three more Wilson coverlets which the author also refers to as “candlewick spreads.”

The first coverlet, pictured at the top of page 288, lists it as being inscribed with “Emily Edson Jones No. 1,” and owned by the Henry Ford Museum. This was, indeed, the first coverlet that Wilson had made. Tragically, as Garvin learned upon inquiry, it was lost in a storage room fire at the museum. Only a small remnant remains. The description states that it was composed of “indigo roving and a white warp and weft” and measured 105" x 97".

A second coverlet shown is held in the collection of  the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, CT. That particular coverlet has a more complete woven inscription: “L.N. Whitehouse no. 177 1839 H.W. Aged 72”. (The number “72” will become an important key to tracking down the coverlet maker).

The name “Whitehouse” immediately rang a bell with Garvin. She was quickly able to confirm that the initial “L.” in the Bishop book caption is a shortened version of the name “Liberty,” who was the wife of George Leighton Whitehouse, a 19th century instrument maker in Farmington, NH.

Additionally, Bishop’s caption transposed the date incorrectly.  In truth, the coverlet was finished in 1859, not 1839. This incorrect date will also become a critical piece of the puzzle.

A third coverlet pictured in the same book is privately owned. This time, “Liberty” is written out in the inscription, “Liberty N. Whitehouse no. 47 1833.”

In his book, Bishop wonders whether the name “Whitehouse” is placed on both of these coverlets because 1) she is the weaver or else, 2) an “innkeeper who liked his spreads numbered and dated.” The correct answer, of course, is “neither.” Baffled, he exclaimed that it would be interesting to know “the true facts.”

White Coverlet Remembered

Garvin began to remember another all-white “candlewick spread” which had been the topic of an earlier contact between an antiques dealer in South Berwick, Maine and the NHHS. This coverlet was reported to have been made by Mary Ham of Middleton, NH in 1856. Since the only “Mary Ham” found would have been only three years old at the time this piece was created, the idea of purchasing it from the dealer was dismissed.

Third Wilson Coverlet Added to NHHS Collection

About a year later, a coverlet made for Abigail Hayes who had lived in Milton and in Farmington during her lifetime was found at a church rummage sale in Sanbornton and was brought in to the New Hampshire Historical Society. Abigail was found to have been the sister-in-law of Rosamon Dame (who had married a Hayes). She was also a neighbor of Liberty Whitehouse. The clues to a tight, interconnected network of people who were related to Wilson or somehow knew her were beginning to add up. Now, the museum owned a third example of this weaver’s work.

Provenance Information Woven on Back of Coverlet

The backs of each of Wilson’s coverlets carry the name of the person for whom it was made, her own initials, H.W., a date, and a number, or at least some of those pieces of data. All of the coverlets were numbered sequentially.  At first, it was thought that the weaver was a man. Following all clues, like a true sleuth, Garvin keyed into the number “72” that is part of the inscription on one of the coverlets. She knew that she would have to start looking through census records for someone who was 72 in 1839 and who had the right initials of H.W. That Bishop’s date of 1839 be amended to the correct one of 1859 became an integral part of the search.

All Wilson Coverlets Have Common Traits

The common factor, or “signature trait” for all of these coverlets is the “weft-loop” construction that is so unique to them. Several dealers who have examined the coverlets  deemed them to be “candlewick spreads.” In this case, that terminology is actually a misnomer.

Candlewick work is a very specific type of embroidery in which heavy cotton yarn, similar to that used to make wicks for candles, is used to make Colonial Knots, or “tufts” which sit on the surface of the bedcovering. Wilson’s coverlets were definitely not of this type of construction. Hers were completely woven on a loom, and had a double weft. The second weft was pulled up to form a raised surface. The double weft feature is repeated throughout the 22 known examples of her work.

Toward an Understanding of Terminology

We have been speaking of Wilson’s weavings as “coverlets.” The word coverlet comes from Middle English and is an Anglo-Norman French derivative according to The New Oxford American Dictionary. The word simply means “something to cover a bed.”

Today, while we think of coverlets as being woven, usually with 100% cotton yarns, or with a cotton/wool yarn combination, quilters also refer to pieced or wholecloth, cotton bedcoverings as “coverlets.” In some areas of the country, such as Pennsylvania, the same (usually un-quilted) bedcoverings would be called “summer spreads.”

Wilson was engaged in making Bolton style coverlets, popular in England at the time. No one is completely sure where Wilson would have learned how to weave this kind of a coverlet. Abroad, they were known as counterpanes.

The 17th century word “counterpane” is a noun meaning “bedspread”. Garvin states that she has found an early 19th century source which describes a counterpane as a coverlet with decorative protuberances.

In use, we see the term “counterpane” used to describe bedcoverings made of 100% cotton fabrics, too, such as the counterpanes made by Martha Washington in the last quarter, 18th century, which have one or more layers of cloth.

Often, the term “coverlid” shows up in old inventories. Whether we are using the word “coverlet,” “summer spread,” “bedspread,” “counterpane,” or “coverlid,” we are thinking of a bedcovering. The terminology just changes with the geographic location, materials used in production and century being discussed.

How Did Wilson Happen to Be a Weaver by Profession?

Speculation has it that Hannah Wilson may have begun her career as a weaver in order to support her son, born out of wedlock. She is listed on her death certificate as a “spinstress,” meaning someone who had worked with fabric.

More to Discover

The breakthrough in researching this topic seems to have come when it was realized that there was probably only one coverlet maker who was making all of these similar coverlets and numbering them consecutively and in a consistent manner, not an easy conclusion to arrive at inasmuch as each of the coverlets showing up in different locations lacked extensive information and they were spread all over the country and in various museum collections.

Mystery Identity

Who was Hannah Wilson that no birth records could be found, nor any siblings or even parents? One of the most intriguing parts of this story is the mystery of Wilson’s identity. Hannah’s parents seemed to have disappeared until….the truth was revealed! Through probate records, Garvin verified that a Mary Wilson was Hannah’s sister.

By accident, Garvin stumbled upon a November 1825 newspaper announcement which stated that “Hannah Leathers” had won $3. for “Best Counterpane” at the Strafford County cattle show. Again, the name “Leathers” was a familiar one to the researcher because her husband had known of the “tumble down shacks” where this group of people lived near a lake in Barrington, NH. Locally, the area was called “Leathers City.”

Here, yet another ah-ha! Experience had led Garvin to conclude that Hannah Wilson had been born “Hannah Leathers.” Over time, the “Leathers” name had became synonymous with a nomadic tribe of basket makers who would travel door to door, gypsy style, to sell their wares. Some members of the clan would also engage in illegal activities like stealing.

After a while, members of the family began to want to change their surname for the purpose of disassociating themselves from the criminal element of the family so that they could appear more respectable. Hannah Leathers Wilson was one of them! In changing her name, she broke any association with the rowdy family crowd.

Outstanding Work by a Master Weaver

As you can see, Hannah Wilson was a master of the art of weaving. Her beautiful, woven coverlets are so visually compelling! In her lifetime of 82 years, she created 177 coverlets in all. Like most women of that time, her activities would have fallen below the level of scrutiny of the community. Had she not signed her work, with each and every inscription, we would probably still know nothing of her life.

While this is a lengthy account, there is more that could have been said. We are indebted to Donna-Belle Garvin for her generous sharing of lecture notes used in the preparation of this report and for bringing this intriguing story to the attention of the public. Her research into the life of Hannah Wilson formed the basis for a journal abstract that she wrote entitled, “The Warp and Weft of a Lifetime: The Discovery of a New Hampshire Weaver and Her Work.” This piece of scholarly writing appears in The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife Annual Proceedings 1997: Textiles in Early New England: Design, Production, and Consumption, published by Boston University, (p. 29-47).

With just 21 coverlets located so far, we know that there are more to find!
If you happen to find one of the other 156 coverlets, please report this new sighting to Donna-Belle Garvin! We will all be most eager to hear from you!

P.S. Since first publication of this article, additional coverlets have had their provenance linked to Hannah Leathers Wilson. For additional updates, see the file:

Patricia Cummings
August 12, 2018

Friday, August 10, 2018

Billings Farm & Museum Quilt Show - a Review

The quilts entered into the 2018 quilt exhibition at Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock, Vermont are outstanding this year! The quilts will be on display until September 16, 2018. We were invited to preview the quilts when the show opened on July 27, 2018 but due to car trouble we missed the gala event this year. However, in going to the museum during the day we were able to buy some delicious cheese made from the farm's very own cows, and we could view the rest of the features that the farm has to offer such as the cows, goats, sheep, horses, special heirloom garden, 1890 farmhouse, and view a 30 minute film, "A Place in the Land." We also had some delicious ice cream at their dairy bar!

"4 Patch Posie" by Charlotte Croft

I always look for quilts made by my friend, Charlotte Croft. This year she made "4 Patch Posie," a tied comfort quilt that will be given to someone who loses their home to a fire or is facing a serious illness. Charlotte engages herself in making many quilts for charity.

Award-winning "100 Days" by Lynne Croswell

The Juror's Choice Award this year went to Lynne Croswell for her dynamic quilt which she calls "100 Days." It is a quilt that one can stand in front of for a very long time discovering all the intricacies of her piecing. She also uses a very unique color combination.

"Doodle Dandy" by Norma Ippolito

"Doodle Dandy" by Norma Ippolito features applique, machine embroidery and machine quilting. It caught our eye immediately. It is one of those quilts where one marvels at the workmanship and wonders just "how she did it." The tape on the border edging is very attractive and the special little motifs like butterflies and feathers are charming!

"Gram's Dresden Plate" by Judy Barwood

On a larger scale, Judy Barwood used 1930s reproduction fabrics to create a wonderful quilt that she has named "Gram's Dresden Plate." The bed-size quilt is hand-quilted. I love her choice of sashing and border fabric which seems to pull the whole quilt together. Many of the fabrics are based on nursery rhymes.

"Almost Midnight at the Oasis" by Linda Ramrath

Last, but not least, is "Almost Midnight at the Oasis" by Linda Ramrath. She found a good way to use a lot of her scrap fabrics and to good advantage! This beautiful quilt won two ribbons, as you can see. We concur that they are richly deserved!

There are many more quilts in the exhibit. These are just a few photos to whet your appetite with the hope that you will attend the show in person if at all possible. The quilters of Windsor County certainly keep busy making quilts for this annual show. This is the 32nd year the event is being held. In addition, small challenge quilts were made by the Delectable Mountain Quilters' Guild.

A trip to the Billings Farm & Museum is always rewarding and they hold events in every season! It is a popular destination for school groups. Memberships are available. I once wrote a very detailed article about the history of the farm for The Quilter magazine. Last time I checked, it was still posted to their website:  For more information, call 802-457-2355 or visit the museum at 69 Old River Road, Woodstock, VT.

Patricia Cummings
August 10, 2018

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Butterflies: Symbols of Hope

Butterflies are symbols of hope. That is the reason we see so many quilts with butterfly motives that were made during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Butterflies continue to be popular on quilts  today. This file will show a few examples.

     Poem #1521

The butterfly upon the Sky,
That doesn't know its Name
  And hasn't any tax to pay
   And hasn't any Home

Is just as high as you and I,
  And higher, I believe.
So soar away and never sigh
And that's the way to grieve-

Emily Dickinson


Miniature quilt with Batik Butterflies made by Patricia Cummings

The butterfly is a happy sight and one which uplifts the human soul. The number of "butterfly" quilts I have seen, both in person and in books, is absolutely astounding. Most of these quilts date from the Great Depression, a period of economic downturn that began with the crash of the stock market in 1929, leading to tough times in the 1930s and best summed up by the folk song, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Unemployed people scrambled to find jobs, some of them make-work projects sponsored by the New Deal's Works in Progress Administration (the W.P.A.).

"Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without" became the slogan of the decade, as women, for the sake of economy, removed shirt collars, turned them, and sewed them on again, with the good side "up" to make the shirts last a little longer. At the same time, they patched children's clothes and often constructed new coats for younger children by cutting out good fabric from older siblings' outerwear, as my grandmother did.

"Butterflies of Happiness" is an appliqued summer coverlet I found to purchase in Vermont

Applique Butterflies

Quilting must have been a welcome respite in the everyday lives of women. Those who had access to a lot of different cotton scraps, or fabrics they picked up from the floors of mills where they worked, would piece or applique quilts. Several companies are responsible for the pieced butterfly designs of the times. Home Arts Magazine published a pieced butterfly pattern in 1928. The Kansas City Star published the design, "Butterfly" in 1936, according to Barbara Brackman's Blockbase software program.

Admittedly, some of the applique butterfly quilts I have seen are very crudely done as if the quilt maker were just doing something to keep her hands busy but her thoughts were preoccupied. Often the butterflies are attached to a background cloth with buttonhole stitch in black embroidery floss. Frequently the edges were left raw and were not turned under, protected only by the embroidery stitches around them.

Sometimes old blankets were used for the interior of quilts, instead of commercially-produced batting. Other times, there is no filler at all. The edges are turned over a couple of times and then stitched down by machine. At times, there is only a separate cotton backing that may or may not be secured with knotted "ties."

Carol Milford's Butterfly Quilt based on a Quilter's Muse pattern

One of the readers of my former website, Carol Milford, created a quilt (shown above) from a pattern I had offered for sale. She added some smaller butterflies. We love the colors she chose!

A pair of Monarch butterflies cavort among the Chrysanthemums
photo by James Cummings

Butterfly as a Symbol

The butterfly is often used to symbolize the human soul. Sometimes, don't we all wish we could just take flight and remove ourselves far away from our earthly woes?

Patricia Cummings
August 9, 2018

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Our Historic West Concord, NH Home

If one is familiar with my writings (articles, books and blogs), then one realizes that I love history. That includes the historic home in which I live!

A few changes have been made to our house, pictured in a history book. It no longer has shutters, the Elm trees have since been taken down, as has the fence to the north of the house. It is no longer gray in color.

In 1821 Abel J. Baker, Jr., a mill owner and timber reeves, built his Federal style house in West Concord, NH. It is a 2 1/2 story dwelling that sits on 3/4 acre of land, with land on either side of the house and in the back (including part of an old mill stream that used to provide power to the textile mill that sat on the adjacent lot to the north of the property). The land in back of the house extends all the way to the Merrimack River and is heavily wooded. Thus, we see a lot of wildlife in the yard such as wild turkeys, deer, mink, beavers, opossums, raccoons and other species.

Frontal view. The house has an extended back ell. A side porch was added at a later date.
 Date of this photo unknown.

Abel Baker's grandfather, Samuel Baker, operated a grist mill and a saw mill in the Boroughs section of the city. Abel Baker, moved to Concord from Henniker, NH when his son Nathaniel was still a toddler. Nathaniel had a fine education, attending Dartmouth College and graduating from Harvard in 1839 and then "reading" law under Pierce and Fowler. Franklin Pierce became our 14th president (1853-1857). He also studied with Charles H. Peaslee, finishing in 1842. Baker served as governor of the state of New Hampshire from 1854 to 1855 and then moved to Iowa. He worked as an attorney there, also serving in the legislature, and was named Adjutant General for the Union cause during the American Civil War. Nathaniel Baker died in Des Moines on September 12, 1876.

Abel Baker lived in the North State Street home until about 1835 when he sold it to Benjamin Holden. B.F. Holden was a successful mill owner. In a letter written by descendant Henry Holden on March 1, 1930 from Napa, California, it is stated that he believes that all of B.F. Holden's children were born in the house.

Side view of our house, taken in 2017. Photo by James Cummings

In 1920, Albert Johnson bought the home and started a business called "Fairview Gardens" from which he sold flowers to the local church and residents. He raised Peonies, Tulips, Iris and many other flowers, some of which still bloom in our yard. Agnes Johnson could be seen working with her husband in the outdoor gardens for more than 50 years, according to the book, Village of West Concord, New Hampshire:  1726-1976. In addition, Mrs. Johnson raised African Violets under grow lights in the room that is now our bedroom and she sold them to folks from near and far. Reportedly, she once had more than 1,000 plants. Albert Johnson died in 1975 at the age of 98. Apparently, gardening agreed with him. He was active until the time of his death.

The old mill that once stood on the lot adjacent to our property

Today, James Cummings carries on the gardening tradition outside with a large vegetable garden, many flowers, a raspberry patch, blackberries, and flowering bushes. With any old house, there is always some interior project to attend. Indoors, I have African Violets, as well, but more like five plants, not 1,000! We have a very happy time imagining what life was like here when the old mill next door was still in place. It dyed wool blue. The wool was used to make uniforms for Civil War soldiers. One time Jim found a rock in the old mill stream that still carries indigo dye on its surface:  a little piece of history! If only walls could talk, these walls would have a rich story to tell!

Patricia Cummings
August 7, 2018

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Ocean Waves Quilters Show: a review

The quilt show set up by the Ocean Waves Quilters of Orr's Island, Maine is a delightful one this year! It is being held in an old schoolhouse across from a cemetery that has a long white fence just perfect for hanging more quilts than would fit inside the venue. We hit a very sunny, warm day on the Saturday we ventured up to Maine, a long drive from our home in the capitol city of New Hampshire.

Orr's Island Old Schoolhouse

First let me talk about a few of the quilts hanging inside the schoolhouse. The first is actually a pillow cover that depicts the family dog. It was made by Lisa Burke. The image draws one in and makes us feel as though we wish we could meet said dog.

Portrait of family dog by Lisa Burke

The second quilt that I was taken by shows a penguin family. It was appliqued by Shirley Freeman MacInnes and the design is loosely based on a National Geographic photo. The quilt is for sale.

Penguin family by Shirley Freeman MacInnes

The third quilt I really liked is one that the quilter had fun with, using up her scraps. The quilt was made by Susan Pearson and is based on a pattern by Lynne Tyler called "Flight of Fancy."

"Flight of Fancy" by Susan Pearson

Of course, the many quilts draped over the white fence outside had no provenance attached to them. They were pinned so they would not blow away and they sure looked nice blowing in the breeze.

Quilts draped over cemetery fence entice passersby to stop for the quilt show

One quilt was enchanting because it was made of a flannel cheater cloth that resembles a Crazy Quilt with snowmen.

Flannel cheater cloth quilt with snowmen resembles a Crazy Quilt

Two quilts were particularly striking. One is a pieced quilt and the other has appliqued circles and fabric that looks Japanese.

Pieced quilt - maker unknown

Pieced and appliqued quilt - maker unknown

After seeing the quilt show, we traveled three miles further to land's end and the gift shop at Bailey Island. We always enjoy seeing the statue that is dedicated to all fishermen. The man is holding a lobster.

Statue dedicated to all fishermen - at Bailey Island, Maine (land's end)

Speaking of lobster, I had a hankering for a bowl of Lobster Stew and Jim decided he wanted some Clam Chowder so on the way back we stopped at Cook's Restaurant and had a seat by the water to watch boats coming and going. We both splurged and topped off our meal with a slice of blueberry pie. Then it was time for the long trip home again. Good thing I brought my knitting with me. It served as a bit of a diversion. Hope you have enjoyed this short travelogue!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Flowers in Our Yard

We are very lucky to have a yard that features a lot of perennial flowers that come back year after year. The yard used to be home to Albert Johnson's flower farm which was called "Fairview Gardens." Back in the 1930s, there was a "fair view" of the Merrimack River from here before the trees and undergrowth clouded the landscape. In fact, we were given a photo of a view of the river that was taken from the second floor of the back of our home. Mr. Johnson, who lived in this house until he died at the age of 98, raised flowers such as Iris and Peonies which he sold or gave to the local church, a nearby stone building that is the Congregational Church of West Concord, New Hampshire.

Perennial Sweet Pea 

Each year there are many flowers and flowering bushes that come back. Hydrangea bush, fragrant wild roses, Perennial Sweet Peas, Cone Flowers, Perennial Salvia, Tiger Lilies, pink Lily of the Valley, Iris, Siberian Iris, and Peonies in three colors are just a few. In addition, there is a flowering Crab Apple tree (which the wild turkeys love), a Flowering Quince bush, and wild Trillium that grows out back.

Portulaca (Moss Rose)

We have added additional perennials such as Bleeding Heart, Dianthus, Dyer's Chamomille, Stella d'Oro Lilies, miniature roses, a Sun Rose plant, and portulaca (or moss rose) which re-seeds itself and comes back year after year. In the front yard, we have planted hens and chicks (a succulent that blossoms). We have herbs such as chives, mint, cilantro, lavender, oregano, and sage. We also planted a pollinator-friendly mix that is favored by the butterflies and bees. That consists of Cosmos, Bachelor Buttons and California Poppies and that, too, re-seeded itself from last year's planting.

Dyer's Chamomille (yellow), Cosmos (pink) and Bachelor Buttons (blue)

To that mix of perennials, we always plant marigolds, zinnias, pansies, petunias, silver dust, and snapdragons. We also have a large vegetable garden and some of the blossoms there are interesting such as those of the Potato plants.

Potato blossoms

The yard is a cheerful place to be. In the spring, we have a blooming Rhododendron. Each month there is something new to enjoy outside whether it be the recurring wild Indian Paintbrush, or the wild Dianthus (with its pretty single blossoms), or the Gloriosa Daisies that return each summer season.

Milkweed Blossom and Insect

Milkweed pops up wherever it wants to grow in the yard and we just leave it for the caterpillars that will turn into Monarch butterflies. It has fragrant blossoms. Evening Primrose, a spiky kind of plant with little yellow flowers grows wild, too, and attracts yellow finches who eat the little seeds of the blossoms. Of course, we also have a big yellow forsythia and lilac bushes in three colors:  lavender, white, and a deep purple (French lilac). The lilacs bloom early, about the same time as the lavender Ground Phlox.

Black-Eyed Susans

We are blessed with a variety of flowers that surround us with beauty. The street pedestrians walking by often stop to take a look and have been known to look around and sneakily steal a blossom or two of the Rugosa Roses that line the white fence on one side of the house. This year we planted Dahlias out front, too, and there are four Chrysanthemums plants that have come back for the third year in a row that look promising for blooms in the autumn. A perennial that blooms where it would like is the Black-Eyed Susan. The photo above was taken near the compost bins we have out back to recycle vegetable matter and lawn trimmings back into rich soil.

Tiger Lilies

We only have about 3/4 acre of land but with land on both sides of the house, there is space for raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry bushes. There is also room for Hosta plants which are perennial and bloom with tall, spiky lavender blossoms. And, a small patch of Oriental Poppies seem to return each year. The wild turkeys and deer love our yard!

Lately, we have not seen as much wildlife as we used to see. In the past, we have seen mink and beaver but we still see a lot of chipmunks and squirrels. Unfortunately, we also have voles which live underground and decimate the root crops like carrots, beets and potatoes. We are grateful for all the food we do harvest from the garden (which provides a considerable number of onions, Swiss Chard, peas, green beans, squash, Jerusalem Artichokes, and other veggies. I feel like we live in a little piece of heaven!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Chickadee Quilters' 39th Annual Quilt Show: A Review

We were delighted to see all of the fine quilts hanging in the Chickadee Quilters' 39th Annual Quilt Show in Bridgton, Maine. The show was presented on July 7 and July 8, 2018 at the Stevens Brook Elementary School. There were vendors, a donation table where one could pick up fabric and used magazines; there was food available, and so much more! Of course, we mainly attended to see the quilts!

The Chickadee Quilters' Guild is a busy one! It also offers the opportunity to ANY quilter to show a quilt in their show. Therefore, the quilts are not just from the local community but from other places as well. In this review I have chosen six of the many quilts on display. They all represent a lot of work and expertise!

"Pine Burr" by Pam Hogan

Jim was drawn to the "Pine Burr" quilt that was machine pieced and hand quilted by Pam Hogan. Usually a southern pattern, in this quilt the indigo-colored fabric forms an alternate design. The quilt has a "masculine" look as if it would be perfect for a boy's room or for a man.

"Peace by Piece" by Shirley Hoeman

"Peace by Piece" is a hand and machine pieced quilt by Shirley Hoeman who used the pattern "Hampton Ridge" by Paula Barnes to create this medallion style quilt. A lot of piecing went into the making of the quilt. I loved the multiple borders that seem to set off the quilt in grand fashion!

"Lucy Boston Style" by Anne Debonis

We were particularly drawn to "Lucy Boston Style" which was hand pieced by Anne Debonis. The quilter used the gray fabric to its best advantage, first to form "crosses" in between blocks and again on the first border. Again, this quilt took a lot of piecing and is very colorful!

"The Splendid Sampler" by Cindy Fraher

"The Splendid Sampler" was machine pieced, machine appliqued and machine quilted by Cindy Fraher. The quilt is composed of blocks published by Pat Sloan and Janie Davidson. What a delightful selection of designs! One's eyes keep moving around the quilt to see each new surprise. I particularly like the apron in the next to the last (bottom) row (6th block from the left).

"Pot Holder Quilt" by Jane Bergquist

The "Pot Holder Quilt" by Jane Bergquist is machine pieced, hand appliqued and machine quilted and was made in a workshop at at retreat in Vermont. In this style of quilt, each block is made and finished separately and then all the finished blocks are joined. It is a style that was popular during the American Civil War. We loved Jane's color choices in her fabrics!

"Afternoon Sail" by Dianne Barth

Last but not least, we have "Afternoon Sail" which was machine pieced and machine appliqued by Dianne Barth and professionally quilted by Shirley York. The quilt, an original design, was made to be used as a raffle quilt to raise funds for Bridgton's Rufus Porter Museum. The raffle will take place on August 10th. The quilter states that the center square represents the Rufus Porter school of wall muralists. It will be a lucky person who wins this quilt!

If you have the chance, plan to attend the 2019 show. Contact information for the Chickadee Quilters is simply Bridgton, Maine  04009 or 207.647.3632 and please remember to "like" their page on Facebook!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

My Connections to "The Gossips"

"The Gossips"

Patricia L. Cummings

Years ago I first came across the now iconic image that has taken on the name "The Gossips." It is printed in The Index to American Design. Subsequently, it was re-printed in Woman's Day Book of American Needlework  (1963) with the caption:  "The Gossips, a humorous picture, 11" x 12", appliqued in silk about 1830 by Eunice W. Cook." The photo is attributed to the National Gallery of Art, Index of American Design. That photo is not the original quilt block but rather is a watercolor rendering on paper by Carmel Wilson, a painter for the WPA during the Great Depression. That paper copy measures 14 1/16" x 15 3/16" and was made circa 1938. I will not re-publish that image here as it is under copyright by the National Gallery of Art which charges a hefty fee for publication. The image did appear as a full-page photo in my article for The Quilter magazine.

Note:  Since writing the above paragraph, I noticed that the National Gallery of Art has posted an image of Carmel Wilson's graphite and watercolor image of "The Gossips" online at:

My next encounter with "The Gossips" was when I found a pattern by Jan Kornfeind of Country Appliques when I was shopping at a fabric outlet in Claremont, New Hampshire. Using that pattern, I created a reproduction adding various other elements such as a rug, a cat, and a portion of a lace handkerchief with Eunice's name and the date the project was made.  I added a tea cup rather than a handkerchief. Here is my version.

"The Gossips" reproduction made by Patricia Cummings

I wrote an article about "The Gossips" in the March 2002 issue of The Quilter magazine (All-American Crafts Inc.). According to the book Artists in Aprons:  Folk Art by American Women by C. Kurt Dewhurst, Betty MacDowell and Marsha MacDowell, the original creation has been "lost." Recently, however, that statement has been proven false by a researcher who located Eunice Ware Cook's great, great, great granddaughter who still has the original item. That is good news!

Angular version of "Comic Patchwork" as seen in Eva M. Niles' book. She created a chart related to the numbers to designate which colors to use for a silk patchwork carriage bag patch.

Artists who work in other mediums have also wanted to re-create "The Gossips" and have done so in canvas work, paintings, embroidery, and presumably in making carriage bags if they followed the advice of Eva Marie Niles in her 1884 book that showed a similar, very angular design she called "Comic Patchwork." The book, Fancy Work Recreations;  Knitting, Crochet & Home Adornments was a gift to me by my friend, Virginia Stevens. In studying Niles' line drawing, I discovered that there is a missing line that is critical to the design. I drew it in when I made a copy of the line drawing and the added line is shown in red in the drawing published in The Quilter magazine.

"Mimi's Garden" by Teresa Shippy

Funny how all of these coincidences came into being at about the same time to tell the story of this design. I guess it pays to read a lot and to pay attention to detail! I am proud of my work and findings and the presentation of "The Gossips" to a new audience today. I inspired at least one quilt artist to re-create the design, giving her own spin to it, and calling it "Mimi's Garden". I now own that quilt!

19th century line drawing from catalog, colorized by Patricia L. Cummings

Subsequently, I found a line drawing in a 19th century catalog of drawings for outline stitch embroidery. I enlarged the sketch, cleaned up some of the lines, and colorized the drawing, printing it on fabric and then making it into a small quilt.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief overview of "The Gossips." I have other images but the ones shown give you a good idea of the design and some of the derivative works.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Hydrangeas as "Hair"

I love Facebook! I recently posted a photo of Hydrangeas used as "hair," an idea from an Australian magazine owned by a friend. As a gift, my friend located the same type of vase used in the decorator's set-up and sent it to me. The vase looks like a lady with closed eyelashes and a pretty mouth with lipstick.

Notice that the stuffed cat has the same closed eyelids:  a total coincidence that I noticed after the photo was taken

My Hydrangea had already dried on the bushes when the vase arrived but we cut some anyhow and used them for this photo. Hydrangeas come in many colors. These were white originally. I wish I had a blue or pink Hydrangea bush or a place to put same. The bushes really expand, in time, so I would need a big space to plant a new bush.

I thought I would try to bring a smile to your day. The folks on Facebook on the Garden n country's site seemed to love this photo. Hope you do, too!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Lupines! A Trip to the North Country

Lupines enjoy cool, mountain air such as that found in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, Lupine capitol of the world. We have tried growing them in Concord, New Hampshire on several occasions but it was a no-go. They just would not cooperate. We figured it was too hot for them. So, every year we make a trek to the north country to see Lupines growing with wild abandon. We drive through the White Mountains, Franconia Notch, near where the "Old Man of the Mountains" once stood proudly, and follow back roads up a steep hill to Sugar Hill.

Lupines near the side of the road across from Pearl Lake (photo by James Cummings)

Sugar Hill has three good destinations:  Polly's Pancake Parlor, the Sampler gift shop, and Harman's Country Store (bring along a cooler to bring home their famous cheese). There may be other places to attract others and certainly special events on weekends but for us old folks who no longer enjoy crowds and prefer to go places during the week, those are our choices. Of course, one has to know the best roads to travel to see the Lupines in their glory, blooming in fields and by the sides of the roads. Our favorite destination is Pearl Lake.

Today, the small lake was peaceful with a few kayak and canoe enthusiasts. Yellow frittilaries (butterflies) flitted about on the banking, landing now on an Indian Paintbrush, then on a Buttercup plant, and lastly, on the Lupines. They seem to move faster than the speed of light so it is hard to catch a photo of them.

One of two beaver dams on this small body of water (photo by James Cummings)

Jim spotted a swampy area that has two beaver dams and took several pictures. None of the occupants were in sight. One year we saw a turtle sunning itself on an old log in Pearl Lake. It is so peaceful in this part of the countryside. Part of the road turns into a dirt road for a time and one wonders when a moose or deer will appear!

The Pink and the White Lupines are more rare than the Purple and Lavender ones (photo by James Cummings)

The Sampler gift shop sells Lupine seeds. We did see some Lupines blooming along the highway on the way up (I-93), planted by someone, no doubt. So, I know they will thrive in other places than just the mountains but, as I said, we had no luck. The packet of seeds costs only $2.50 so if one is so inclined to try one's luck, there will be no large financial loss.

Who knew that Lupines could be so remunerative? At Polly's Pancake Parlor, there were table runners for sale that have a Lupine theme. The price was about $35. dollars each, if I remember correctly. And then, there are postcards and note cards featuring Lupines galore. Once a year, (right now), the world celebrates the glory of this wildflower. The event was always called the "Lupine Festival" in the past until someone decided to change the name to something else. To us, it will always be the former name. If you like home-grown excitement that is just a little bit off the beaten path, it is time to head to this event, no matter what you call it!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Working on a UFO

Hand quilting can be tedious as I am finding out while quilting a bed quilt. It is especially time-consuming when one is trying to make fine, tiny hand stitches! I started this twin size quilt a few years ago now and have set it aside from time to time while working on other projects, projects that are now finished due to the fact that I sent them out for machine-quilting! The quilt I am speaking of is a Sampler quilt that has some quilt blocks with a political association which were published in The Quilter magazine (the second row down has Landon's Sunflower, Old Tippecanoe Block, and the Harrison Rose). Other blocks were ones I made to try a technique or pattern or to re-create an antique quilt block in my collection.

Quirky quilt in progress. My "Maple Leaves" have a mind of their own!

I have skipped around while quilting, doing a little bit of quilting in each block and some stitch in the ditch along some quilt block border sides, so far no quilting in the two main borders. I am tempted to tie those as I don't think I have the stamina to hand quilt them. Maybe I'll just hand quilt a motif in the corner border squares.

In the meantime, I realize just how quirky this quilt is. I did not cut one of the borders the correct length so added in a strip of fabric and wrote on it, "Die Gedanken Sind Frei" - the name of a German song that means "Thoughts are Free" or "One can think what one wants!" It was a song that was popular with German youth groups at one point in time.

I like the quilt because it is colorful and has a batting that would make it a warm bed covering. I've yet to cut the separate binding which will be a brown print.

There is a reason that UFOs remain that way. I am trying to finish this one, as best I can, but I am also eager to move on to my next project, even if it is another UFO (unfinished object). At one point, I even resorted to trying to machine quilt along one border but was not pleased with the result. No, I guess I will just stick to what I know and either finish it by hand quilting or tying - probably both. Wish me luck!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Tee-Shirt Quilt Finished!

More than two years have passed since my son handed me a pile of his old tee-shirts and asked if I thought I could make them into a quilt. I said, "Yes," of course, not realizing what I was getting myself into! Since then, it has been a learning curve. First, I had to buy a presser foot for jersey fabrics and "stretch" needles for sewing on jersey. Then I had to figure out the right fusible to use, the correct temperature of the iron to do the fusing, and I had to decide how to cut the jerseys. First I cut each of them into 15 1/2" squares. After fusing, I trimmed them to 12 1/2" making sure the motifs were centered and any writing was in a straight line.

Tee-shirt quilt made for my son and finished on May 24, 2018

Then I had to decide on a fabric for sashings. I chose black fabric with musical notes and symbols as the recipient loves music. Since so many of the blocks had a red background, I chose red for the cornerstones. That fabric has stylized letters written in an all-over pattern. I very much wanted to use the tie-dye shirt he provided. It is so colorful and cheerful and has writing on one side.

The first border is a burnt orange color fabric with a tiny bird print. I think it helps to coordinate the look of the quilt. The second and final border is magenta. It is batik fabric with large scale leaves and undertones of orange.

I used all the shirts he gave me with the exception of a green shirt that I did not think would blend well with the other colors. For two of the blocks in the bottom row, I used a Red Sox fabric that I had on hand as he is an avid fan of that baseball team.

Block dedicated to Samuel Sewell and 50 years of the United Church of Christ

Sewing the blocks together was a challenge. I found it worked best if the jersey fabric was the top fabric going under the sewing machine needle. The jersey fabric stretches slightly more than the cotton fabric, even when fused, so it was a task to get the cornerstones properly placed.

Tie-dye block that commemorates a Mission Trip

The quilt is as perfect as I could make it and it is now finished! It was made with a mother's love and it will be warm and serve as a memory of times when the recipient was a youth leader in his church and took his group of young people to visit the Lakota Indians on several occasions, as well as participating in other missions.

"WE ARE ALL RELATED" ~ Lakota Sioux

Now, it is time to think about finishing some UFOs and perhaps starting another small or not-so-small project. Goodness knows, I have the free time and the materials at hand to continue quilting for a very long time!