Saturday, June 24, 2017

Labor of Love



This quilt was made in 1882 by Ankey Keaton Hutchison. Ankey, who lived in West Virginia, had no children of her own. However she raised her step-grandson, William Hutchison, my husband's great grandfather. When William decided to move to Nebraska to farm, she made this quilt for him. Using whatever tools were available in the early 1880's, she cut strips of fabric and hand appliqued letters and designs onto them. The strips allowed her to organize the verse and keep the letters in apple pie order. Then she sewed the strips together by hand. This quilt contains many many tiny stitches. William's name and the date are appliqued on the right hand border. Later I learned the verse was a German Baptist hymn. (Valentine, F. West Virginia Quilts and Quiltmakers: Echoes From the Hills. Athens: Ohio University, 2000)




I think of Ankey, age 42, stitching on the quilt after her chores were done. Carefully cutting each letter and lining them up just so, knowing that when this young man left home she would never see him again. I hope he wrote letters to tell her about his farm, his young wife, and their three children. Even an occasional letter would have been reassuring, knowing he had arrived safely, worked hard, and later had a family. While the hymn was a stern instruction to him on how to live, the gift of this quilt was a labor of love.



My mother-in-law gave the quilt to my husband and I on Valentine's Day, 1993, surely another gift of love and trust. Since then I have stored and cared for it. Every year I refolded it and wrapped it in a clean piece of sheet. Quilt historians recommend archival tissue and boxes and refolding to prevent permanent creasing. Failing archival materials, they suggest wrapping quilts in muslin or "never-been-used" sheets, preferably with no color.

Although this quilt is in good condition, it won't last forever. My husband and I talked with other family members and then decided to donate the quilt to The International Quilt Study and Museum here in Lincoln. This museum is a local treasure with an international reputation. The gorgeous building was specially designed for quilt exhibits, storage, and study. It is worth a visit. The staff will care for the Hutchison quilt and occasionally exhibit it in a way that preserves it for as long as possible. Leaving the museum this week, I wondered what Ankey would think about her quilt becoming part of quilt history in this wonderful place. I hope she would be pleased that her work has and will be lovingly cared for in another new home.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Summer's Eve




Something about summer's eve speaks of abundant possibility. The outdoors is lush and green without that wilted look of too much heat and sun. My herb garden is growing well. I have enough oregano to supply an Italian restaurant. When I clip herbs for cooking, I pick extra sprigs to dry on a paper towel. I have little jars labeled with parsley, basil, oregano, and thyme. After the herbs dry, I crumble them into the jars for winter cooking. The only drawback to this low tech method is the pile of paper towels that accumulates on the counter. Usually I harvest enough for my use as well as for my son and daughter. They make great stocking stuffers for cooks. The lavender is full of blossoms. The tomatoes and sugar snap peas are flowering. I could grow sugar snap peas just for their delicate flowers. A thunderstorm on Monday a.m. dropped three inches of needed rain, more bounty for the season.



As for knitting, I have new projects on the needles. I finished the Pebbles socks and cast on this pair. I was a wee bit disappointed to run out of gradient yarn at the toe but the yellow made a good sturdy toe. If I had knit a shorter cuff I might have had enough but ripping out the sock didn't make sense. Watching the colors change in this Beach Glass colorway made for quick knitting. I also knit one of a pair of Spring River Mitts.


Since I keep looking (in vain) through my shawls for a more neutral, light colored one to wear with summer clothes, I cast on the Gemma Shawl. The designer remarks that that pattern is just right for summer knitting and she is right. There is a nice easy rhythm in the stitch patterns. I also appreciate her attention to detail at the beginning of the shawl. This yarn came in an enormous skein. I finally split it into two balls because the first became too big to hold in my hand. There will be enough left for another project. I could have knit some kind of short sleeved, short bodied sweater but I bought the yarn for this shawl pattern so away I knit.


Honestly I would like to cast on more projects. Something about relaxed summer days makes me think of three or four other skeins of yarn that I might like to use for mitts or a cowl. Summer's bounty from the natural world spills into my knitting. This side of summer has a richness that will last only a few weeks. Enjoy these June days.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Blue: Old and New


Thursday evening I sewed the buttons on this sweater. I am always amazed to make a sweater that fits. Whew! A slight pulling in on the button band blocked out well. I didn't want to rip it out but I probably would have, given the investment of time and yarn. Even though I alternated skeins, some variation in color is noticeable. The pattern is well written for multiple sizes. The small cables at the side seams and down the middle of the back are a nice detail. I knit a slightly shorter body with fewer increases in the hip area because I wanted an everyday boyfriend sweater, not a bathrobe. The yarn is a little luxurious for everyday wear but I follow the advice of my Gram who taught me to knit."Always knit the best yarn you can afford." Besides it was on sale last Thanksgiving weekend.


I am currently mending a quilt top. I hand pieced, appliqued, and quilted this Basket Quilt from 1989-1991. When I finished, it matched the wallpaper in our previous home but my love of blue hasn't changed much over the years. We used the quilt on our bed for a number of years and then I put it away because it was showing some wear. Since I make quilts and knits to be used and enjoyed, I put it back on the bed this past winter. The top row of blocks needs mending.


After washing it for winter storage, I unearthed a box of odds and ends of old linens, pieces of fabric, and embroidery floss I save in a box labled, "blue - odds and ends."  


Since mending was going to be visible, I began by using the corner of old handkerchief to mend the first block. In a slap-happy sort of way, I'm enjoying finding something in the box for the worn spots. The handkerchief belonged to my Gram although I'm not sure why because she was a gal who favored pink almost exclusively.  

How do you mend?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

I write this post on Memorial Day. Yesterday my husband and I visited cemeteries where our parents and grandparents are buried. We drove Nebraska Highway 15 from Lincoln to the Butler County cemetery, then stopped at Schuyler, and Norfolk. The wind blew across the fields as Lance drove and I knit on a second sock of a pair. He showed me the hill where his mother took him to look for Native American arrowheads (they never found any) but she liked to get away from the house in the tiny town and walk out in the country. I told him about my family's infamous sledding trips in Ta Ha Zouka Park and high school days cruising the main street of Norfolk before pulling into the Double K Drive-In for french fries and cokes. We know these stories well but the day seemed like one for remembering. So we turned off the radio and audiobooks and exchanged stories.

Memorial Day originated with remembering soldiers of the Civil War in the North and the South. Today an article in our newspaper lamented many folks don't practice the true meaning of the holiday, that is to honor men and women who have lost their lives in military service. While I honor those who lost their lives serving our country, I also remember and honor others. Honoring one group does not dishonor the other. I also applaud families and friends who spend time together sharing stories and meals. Honor and remembrance come in many forms.


The word "memory" has several origins. One of the earliest comes from the Latin word, "memor" meaning mindful. Today I am holding stories and dear ones in my mind while I knit the second toe of the second sock. Last week I finished the baby sweater with yarn to spare so I'm knitting a matching hat. The little sweater has a one button closure in the neck ribbing that is currently held in place by a stitch marker. Although I'm tempted to pick out a little duck button, I think a babe would be more comfortable with a smooth round button (sewed on securely) against the neck. I think the sweater is a 6 - 9 month size. By then most babies should be holding their heads up but those big heads do get heavy and come to rest on chests. I have buttons to sew on my cardigan and some two color mitts in the works.

However you celebrate, I hope you have a lovely Memorial Day.

 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Same Yarn Second Verse


Steady rain has fallen the past three days. The garden is soggy and the iris stand valiantly against the rains. I took photos before the first storm on Wednesday. Long ago, iris were planted on the graves of women to guide them on their journey home. My Gram grew hybrid iris in her yard and so they remind me of her. Practically, iris foliage is green from spring to fall and the tight bunches of rhizomes just under the ground keep the weeds down.


In knitting notes, I ripped out a sock and cast on another pattern. The cable stitches in the first sock made my hands hurt. The Pebbles pattern is easy to knit while chatting with friends or sitting in a waiting room. I knit an Eye of Partridge heel flap with a traditional heel turn and gusset. I am also knitting a baby sweater by the same designer. It is a simple top-down raglan that I may have turned into a yoke sweater because of a different gauge. The sleeves might be more turquoise than yellow as I am playing yarn chicken with yellow yarn scraps. Knitting is nothing but an adventure. My sister contributed the bright turquoise yarn from her stash to make enough yardage. This little joint project will be a charity donation.
 
 

I took advantage of these rainy days to make a summer reading list, my version of the public library summer reading program. When I was teaching, the list helped me get through the busy end of the semester to the more relaxed summer school schedule. Sometimes books not listed will appear on my stack of "to-read" books and I rarely read everything on the list. This year's list includes:the latest Maisie Dobbs mystery, In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear, Commonwealth by Anne Patchett and A Piece of the World by Christina B. Kline. Others listed are Dickinson, a commentary on Emily Dickinson's poems, and a book of essays, The Wave in the Mind by Ursula K. Le Guin. These days I try to borrow most books from the local library or interlibrary loan. Then I loosely follow the reading rule given to me by a friend: "When you begin a book, read the number of pages of your age to decide whether to continue or not. After fifty, you get to subtract any number of pages you like."  

I hope you have some lovely summer plans. Memorial weekend is coming up and summer is around the corner.



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Shawl and a Poem

My winter knitting projects are finished. Saturday I knit the button band onto the sweater I started in December. I carried my knitting and a cup of tea to the deck. Here I am in my Saturday best, knitting on that beautiful May morn. I hope a good soak and blocking will correct a slight pulling-in on the button band. I often rip out and repair but picking up seventy million stitches on a v-neck was tedious. More spring knitting on the deck, yes please. Picking up all those stitches again, no thank you.

I finished this Soft Sunday Shawl. Shawl knitting is magical unless one tries to memorize a poem at the same time. Isn't it always that "at the same time" that brings trouble to knitting? In honor of poetry month, Sara of Yarns at Yinhoo podcast suggested memorizing a poem. I chose Ted Kooser's poem, "Mother" published in Delights and Shadows. Reciting poetry while knitting is very peaceful but not so good for stitch counts. After redoing two garter sections, I tried one of Sara's tips for memorization. I worked on the poem while walking. The language and rhythm in poetry have physical properties based on sound and breath that I thought about while walking. Learning the poem by heart helped me better understand how all the elements worked together. It also helped me pass time while tilted upside down in the dental chair. You never know when poetry or knitting will come in handy.   


Now I am planning some smaller spring projects, perhaps a baby sweater and some fingerless mitts. While pondering my stash of yarn and patterns, I'm knitting up a few washcloths. Mitered Cloth patterns create a perfect square cloth, a preference of mine. I hope your spring knitting and reading is treating you well.  Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesdays. 

Happy Mother's Day.    

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Apples From a Teacher


If every quilt tells a story, this story is more like a chapter book. In 1990, my youngest child was in kindergarten so I took a part time teaching position. On my way to pick up my students from the bus, I walked by a first grade class and noticed M. reading "Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt" to her students. I stopped after school and introduced myself, telling her I was a quilter. We became friends as she helped me survive a challenging teaching assignment. A few summer mornings each year, we sat on her porch swing and talked of handwork, gardening, family, and education. Eleven years later she decided to move to a mountain valley in western Montana. She spent the next fall and winter in Montana planning and supervising the building of her straw bale home. I took care of her Lincoln home while she was away. That winter she sewed these apple blocks from a free pattern she picked up in a quilt shop in Pocatello, Idaho. When she ran out of red print fabrics, I sent her some from my stash. In the spring, she returned to Nebraska, packed up her belongings, and moved to Montana.



In 2003, she sent me the hand pieced quilt blocks. Living in a small motor home with limited space, she did what women have often done. She used materials at hand, sandpaper templates, a pencil, needle, thread, and small scissors. The stitches are even but the blocks were slightly different sized. I attached strips from my dark green fabrics to square them up. Later as I traveled to and from my parents' home at the end of my Dad's life, I stopped in Columbus, Ne. and purchased the apple print to use for sashing. Last winter, 2016, I cut sashing and machine pieced a top and backing. Since I hadn't purchased enough apple fabric to use all the blocks, I sewed six into the backing. After the holidays, I delivered the quilt top, backing, and batting, to the woman who has machine quilted my last three quilts. She is an artist with a long arm quilting machine. Last week I finished the binding and made a label for the back. I used a label M sent with the quilt blocks as well as the corner of a napkin she had embroidered with the letter M. The label lists the names of all three of us. 

Twice I have visited my friend in her environmentally friendly home in the rugged mountain setting. In her mid-eighties, she continues to live independently. Arthritis doesn't allow her to hand piece or quilt but she sews on her machine, gardens, and knits. She has a closet full of quilts and doesn't want this one. However I made the last three blocks into a table runner and will be sending that to her as a birthday gift. Teachers, we are a persistent bunch.

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.