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!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Quilt Donated to Museum

Here is a photo of the quilt that I just sent off to the William McKinley Presidential Library & Museum. It is a Redwork quilt that I designed. The five embroidered quilt blocks are reproductions of Penny Squares sold at the Pan Am Exposition in 1901. There is a large and fairly famous Redwork quilt that utilizes all the Penny Squares in that series, including those that depict the various buildings at the Exposition.

President McKinley Tribute Quilt by Patricia Cummings

The center square of my quilt shows the Temple of Music. That is where President McKinley was shot at point blank range by a crazy person who snuck into the receiving line. The quilt has "musical" fabrics to support the theme, one of them with a black background to remember a nation in mourning. The president did not die immediately. His vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, (who is also depicted on the quilt), became president. The images of the wives of the two men are also embroidered on the other quilt blocks.

I have always been interested in political and presidential quilts and decided to make this one in 2006. It is hand embroidered, hand appliqued, and hand quilted. I am so happy that the museum wanted to collect this quilt! It makes my heart glad to share my work!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Giving is Receiving

One does not have to look far today to hear about the concept of "Swedish Death Cleaning." The Danes have a similar philosophy. If one is not using something, get rid of it. Downsize as much as possible so that one does not leave a jumbled mess for relatives to muddle through when "the time comes."

I started out simple. I went through old correspondence and discarded a lot of it although I'll admit that I kept about half of what I looked at. Next, I decided to find good museum homes for the textiles (pillow covers and other textiles) that I collected with book publication in mind.

World War I silk handkerchief

Today I shipped important, historical silk pillow covers and other items. The recipient is the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. About two weeks ago, I brought my entire collection of World War II textiles to the Wright Museum of World War II in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. I mailed other textiles to the C.C.C. Legacy organization in Edinburg, Virginia. Most all of the textiles I donated appear in my book, Sweetheart & Mother Pillows. I collected a few more after the book was published. In all, I gave away about 240 items.

Was it difficult to part with these items? Yes, but I know that they will be cared for very well in their new homes and I no longer have to "worry" about what will happen to them. They are important objects and need to be treated with the respect they deserve.

My sister Barbara, in the 1940s, drawing at now antique chalk board

I have begun looking around the house and seeing other things that beg for a new owner. Today I also gave away an antique, free-standing, chalk board that had belonged to my mother. There are no small children in the immediate family who would enjoy using it and I found a very good caretaker for that "piece of the past."

Little by little, I'll see to it that my book collection finds new readers, clothes that are outgrown but still very serviceable go to charity, and other belongings get minimized. When one spends a lifetime collecting things, one spends the second half of life disposing of them. It's not a bad thing, actually.

Many people will potentially benefit from seeing the museum textiles, on exhibit, or online. I remember when my husband decided to take the shutters off of our house. He was lining them up by the fence when a truck pulled up and a man asked to take them all. He said, "Yes!" He had no further use for them, but to someone else they held possibilities! Giving away things is a liberating task. It makes me happy to give something that I know someone else will enjoy.

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