Sewing on the Road

We took a road trip yesterday and I did some sewing while riding.  I haven’t done that in a while.  Lately, I’ve been enjoying the scenery, sometimes helping with navigation and driving.  Before leaving home today, I grabbed one of my favorite projects to go:  English Paper Piecing.

I love this technique.  Some of the first quilt making I did was using this method.  In Ollie Jane’s Flower Garden, I pieced the hexagons for the background by basting fabric to freezer paper templates.  This was a great travel project while visiting with my mother during the years of her life in an assisted living facility, in hospitals while family members were receiving treatment, and later a repeat of the situation with my mother-in-law.

I’ve found other kinds of hand work to be portable, too.  I’ve done wool appliqué and the seed stitch while riding, details described here.  But for quick preparation for an on-the-move project, EPP can’t be topped.  Today I grabbed a mini-charm pack of fabric, some hexagons I had cut from card stock (using my AccuQuilt Go, and a little tin of supplies I keep at the ready.  In this box is a pair of scissors, a couple of pins, a needle, a thimble, and thread.  I can grab it and go.

Here’s a photo of all I got done in the car…of the 42 fabrics in the collection, I think there are 5 left to be basted.  The rest are ready to attach together or to something else.

 

 


Once home, I pulled out this bag of templates to make my version of La Passacaglia, a complex EPP project of many shapes.  I love the geometry of it all, and began playing with it a while back, especially using some fabric with symmetrical designs to demonstrate possibilities while teaching the technique.  It’s all stored where I can pull it out and work on it a while, put it away, and visit again later.  Pieces in progress are pictured in the pile. (The orange and blue probably won’t end up in my final quilt, not colors I like…I was just playing with the colors and symmetry of the fabric in this rosette.)  I took this to our guild a few months ago, planning to offer the whole caboodle for sale at a bargain.  Now I’m glad I rethought it.  Who knows when a ready-to-go project will come in handy?  When Jim says, “let’s go,” I say “I’m ready.  Where?”.  But I feel better knowing I have some sewing to take along, even if it just goes for a ride and doesn’t get touched.

New Old Stuff


I’ve acquired some real treasures in recent days…my brain is spinning with ideas for using them.

The red windowpane checked towels are old linen.  Yes, they do look like graph paper.  But they work well as an underlying grid for free form appliqué and stitching.  The loose weave and years of washing make them a delight to use – the needle just glides through the openings between the threads.  The red/burlap trim and the lace are gifts from a friend.  They came from Europe and look like they belong with a collection of French General fabrics, don’t they?

The doilies are another antique store find.  Yes, they are treasures in their original box, with the label, but they won’t stay there.  Click on the photo to enlarge if you want to read the details.  You will swoon! They will become mats for photos on fabric, I think.

And the blue linen hankie, oh, my, what a beauty!  A friend found this while shopping and thought of me.  And this was before seeing my vintage blues from Bell Buckle!   Enlarge his one to see the hand drawn thread work and the amazing tiny appliqué.  The white squares in the nine-patch measure 3/8” on  each side.

This piece will not find its way into a quilt for a very long time.  It now lives in my basket of blue.

Bell Buckle

Vintage blue calico, antique stores, delicious food, friendly people, and a caboose!  It’s no wonder that we found ourselves returning to Bell Buckle, TN on our recent trip to Paducah, KY.

We had visited Bell Buckle once before on our way home from an AQS show in Paducah.  I remembered the beautiful rolling hills, the pastoral campus of the Webb School, ice cream cones, and vintage blue ticking.  Our stop this time was on a beautiful morning as we headed to Paducah.

After the requisite photo shoot on the caboose, we visited several shops and enjoyed all of them.  But the delight came in the Bluebird Antiques and Ice Cream Parlor.  There we met Billy Phillips and his mother, Nancy.   I recounted memories of being there before and buying vintage ticking.  Billy enticed me to the Mercantile store after we had a bite of lunch by telling me about his latest acquisition; items from a sixty-year collection of vintage blue and white calicos from a Nashville collector.

After sharing a lunch of chicken salad (freshly homemade that morning) and a fried apple pie (also prepared from scratch that day), I visited with Nancy.  In our conversation where she proudly proclaimed her age being 85,  she identified herself as the maker of the pies, not as the savior of the town.  That story came later from Billy.

We didn’t have room to try ice cream in one of their freshly made waffle cones, but I’m certain that’s why the ice cream from a few years ago was so memorable.  We passed up the homemade pimento cheese, and the fried green tomato cheeseburger, but that last is on my list for the next visit.

While we waited for our food, we browsed the shelves in the Bluebird shop.  Dishes adorned with bluebirds, old quilts, old camera equipment, and Tasha Tudor books.  What’s not to love?

I asked about the sign advertising Miss Jeane’s Cafe.  Miss Jeane ran the cafe in that building for forty years, establishing high standards that Nancy and her helpers continue with their menu.

Nancy heard us say we were on our way to Paducah and revealed that she, too, is a quilter.  And doll maker.  It was her love of all things doll related that led her to save the town.

As Billy shared the story,  the mercantile/hardware store had been closed for some seven or so years in the 1970’s, but was still filled with original merchandise.  Nancy saw a cabinet inside that reminded her of a dollhouse.  She called to inquire about buying the cabinet and was first told, “it’s not for sale.”  Determined, she called the owner again and this time got a quote of $750.  She said, “that’s a bit high for a cabinet,” only to hear the reply “Oh, I mean for the store and all its contents.”  Sold!

To save the store from a bulldozing plan to make way for a new Piggly Wiggly, Nancy researched listing the property on the National Register of Historic Places.  Because of shared fire walls, she was able to save not only her new store, but all the buildings attached to it.  I, among many, am so glad she did that.  What a pleasant little town was saved!

With a population of fewer than 500 residents, the town welcomes as many as 100,000 visitors to its festivals. We heard about the Moon Pie Festival (Bell Buckle is the place where Moon Pies, made fresh in Nashville, were first paired with RC Cola), coming in June, and the Arts and Crafts Festival in October.  A google search will give you details in case you are interested.

Though I’m impressed with their festivals and would enjoy the excitement,I’m glad we’ve had a chance to visit the quaint little town on quiet days, with time to browse its treasures.

In the photos, you see what I’m talking about.  The blue calicoes were simply divine.  For someone who loves all things blue, especially indigo, and cloth with a history, it was spellbinding.  I brought home a few treasures, and have them displayed in a basket close to my sewing chair.  Daily inspiration!  Talking with Billy about these treasures was very educational.  I didn’t realize, for example, that English fabric samples in the 1800’s were swatches the size of today’s fat quarters!

With all our time on the road the past few weeks, and then things to catch up when we got home, I haven’t had a lot of sewing time.  But I am working on a Paducah journal quilt, and this little block is one of the pieces representing our stop in Bell Buckle.

Ryan’s Book

 

This is Ryan’s Book. Those are Ryan’s eyes.

Children love to play peek-a-boo.  Ryan’s Grammy, my friend Betty, knows this.  Betty has made Ryan a personalized Peek-a-Boo book.

Using her quiltmaking skills, plenty of novelty fabrics, and a lot of time, Betty has assembled cloth pages with personalized fun for Ryan.  In his playtime lifting flaps, Ryan will lear words, colors, animal names, and more.

Here is Ryan exploring his book on a recent trip to visit Grammy and Pops. He’s hard at work exploring all the pages and pockets Betty provided.  What a wonderful gift!

 

Backroad Therapy

The past couple of weeks have been filled with busyness; so we decided on a day of exploring.  Our country drive took us past peaceful scenes of green, pastures filled with cows, fields of hay just mown – and some just baled, and irrigation systems at work.  We were headed to Molena and Woodbury, to check shops we like in those towns, and Zebulon to visit the bookstore.

We explored several antique stores.  A few items came home with us but we mostly collected ideas.  Ideas for the porches, for decorating, for repurposing some old crates and boxes and cans.

Most shops weren’t very busy (one of the perks of being retired and being able to shop on weekdays) so we had Interesting conversations with shop proprietors.  There was the lady who had a midnight visit from a female cardinal in her workshop, there was the handyman who built a bench from an old spool bed, and we missed the Corgi named Macon in one of our regular shops.  It seems her owner had errands to run before opening the shop today, so Macon got the day off. We met Macon on an earlier visit I shared here.

The other customers who did appear offered opportunities for people watching and people listening.  I overheard a man say, “we could buy this and I could strip it down to the original wood.”  He was referring to a table I’ve admired before.  I admired it in part for its wonderful new chalk-paint finish.

Lunch was high on the agenda, because we remembered the fabulous food at The Blackbird Cafe.


The place is entrancing with tables and light fixtures made from pipes, peeling plaster revealing brick beneath, and condiments corralled in sewing machine drawers.  The food is wonderful, too.  Their homemade kaiser rolls were still warm from the morning’s oven and were just as heavenly as we had remembered.  Yum.

We were there early, so the photos showing the space without people is misleading.  The people did come.  They do come.  Every day.

 

More walking, more exploring, more driving about.  Then we went to Red Oak Covered Bridge. It’s the oldest in Ga, and you still drive across it.  We both marveled at the same feature – no graffiti.  Wow.  There is a sign saying “No Graffiti – $1000 fine”.  Maybe Meriwether County officials enforce that.

Another day spent enjoying the world, seeing the beauty close to home, and treasuring the pleasure of the moment.  Those are important goals since two funerals were included in our busyness recently.  Death is a part of life, but when it comes to someone we know, especially when it’s unexpected, we are reminded to enjoy the everyday.  Yesterday we did just that.

Westward Journey

We are home.

After our trip west to see the country, we are home. After 4788 miles, 18 days, 10 states, 15 nights in 11 hotels, and uncountable memories, we are home.


Even though we know travel to be a great educator, Jim and I are home bodies.  We love to get out and explore our world, but we typically make short trips of a few days’ duration.  This time, we were combining a photography class Jim was taking with friends with a chance to see the southwestern US by car.

So off we went, visiting some friends along the way, and seeing the landscape.  Our route to Arizona was along I-10 heading west and I-40 coming back.  Every day, we ventured off those interstates and saw some of the country from back roads.  Priceless sights included rice fields in Louisiana, bluebonnets and poppies in Texas, numerous new species of birds, new species of trees,  jackrabbits, tumbleweeds, shadows on adobe walls, and natural wonders like White Sands and the Grand Canyon.

There were many opportunities to do some people watching, and people listening.  There were lots of photos taken, Jim focusing on birds for his class, and on traditional landscapes.  I did some of the same and added to my album of street photographs – of people unaware.

We drove through the Texas Hill Country during bluebonnet season and visited the McDonald Observatory.  We toured the Desert Museum in Tucson, saw vast skies in daytime and at night, even saw a falling star over the Grand Canyon.  We saw snow-capped mountains, purple mountain majesties, lots of trains and windmills. We drove sections of the old route 66.

As we crossed the White and Cache Rivers in Arkansas, I had my camera ready, but we saw no Ivorybills.

Names of roads and towns fascinated us. Sundust Road,  Wild Horse Pass, Dead Man Wash, Bloody Bases Road, Horsethief Basin; Checotah, Henryetta, and Lotawatah Road, Oklahoma.  Wilderado, Muldrow, Porum, and Parkin.  And, back in Georgia, another new one: Hog Liver Road.

Unplanned stops at local parks, a farmers’ market, and antique stores gave us a glimpse into the lives of the people living in all these places.  That’s what we wanted to
see – people living their everyday lives; not catering to tourists.

For many of the miles, we didn’t play music, just marveling at the scenery and talking about how the pioneers must have felt following the trail westward.  At other times, we chose music of the area: Jimmy Buffett near Mobile, Al,  Jackson Browne and the Eagles in Winslow, AZ, Gillian Welch and Kate Wolf in Arkansas.

Inspiration for colors and design were everywhere.  The landscaping and decoration on the highway system in AZ is full of graphic designs which would easily translate to quilting.  As I studied the abundant cacti, I envisioned stitching them using tailor’s tacks and french knots (or Jude Hill’s thread beads) to mimic their textures.

Though the beauty of the southwest was magnificent,  Springtime in Georgia was a welcome sight!

Paper Dolls

My mother entertained little girls by cutting paper dolls from paper.  She would fold the newspaper or catalog pages accordion style, then cut one-half of a girl in a dress.  All of us squealed as she unfurled the string of girls holding hands.

I finally learned to do the folding and cutting for myself, even to change the cuts to make strings of little boys, or of girls linking hands up, then down, then up again.

I had some fabric on hand that looked like little girls’ dresses, so I made a template and appliquéd some of Mama’s dolls on fabric.

Later it occurred to me that one of the granddaughters might like a parade of little girls like she once played with in paper.  I happened to have fabric from five dresses she had worn as a toddler.  I cut a pattern so that five girls would fit on a vintage doily I found, and a memory was rekindled. I layered the dolls and doily on a bit of indigo dyed linen and used machine quilting to add dimension. Buttons from those five little dresses were used as embellishments and to secure the layers to a bit of a vintage cross-stitched quilt.  The finished piece measures 17” x 16”.  

Jerry’s Bottle Tree Farm

What an adventure we had this morning!  Our friends Jerry and Rose Payne invited us to their home, Tick Hill, so that Jim might photograph some uncommon butterflies, Giant Yucca Skippers.  We did see the target insect and some other species, but the highlight of the trip for me was the bottle farm.  Well, that and fascinating conversation with Jerry.
We have a bottle tree in our yard, and so far, it’s done its job of warding off evil spirits.  Jerry does not have a bottle tree, he has a bottle forest – made of 135 trees and counting.  That’s more than 10,000 bottles.  Amazing!

Jerry can tell you a lot about bottles.  He knows which companies use recycled bottles, which ones make brown bottles, or green bottles, or blue bottles, or frosted, or painted.  He knows spikes, too.  Winds at his place will cause bottles to pull the spikes out of the post if they are less than 6” long.  The spacing of the spikes is determined by the bottles he’s planning to use and the intended final design.

As a child in Virginia, Jerry was fascinated by bottle trees he saw on his walk to school.  His forest is a tribute to that memory and to individuals in his life.  There is a tree with colored bottles entwined much like a barber’s pole: a salute to his uncle who wielded clippers for a living.  Another has only bottles from the monastery where a friend resides.  Yet another holds pickle jars, all from a neighbor whose children eat a LOT of pickles.  There are trees comprised only of brown beer bottles, or frosted wine bottles, or medicine bottles, or tiny bottles, or bottles dug from a particular location.


As we walked, our conversation included weather, butterfly behavior, plant identification, educational systems, life in south Georgia, mutual acquaintances from years past, and the history of Catholicism in Virginia.  We exchanged stories of family experiences and art pursuits.  We learned more about each other’s educational backgrounds and professional experiences.

Jerry’s folk art is delightful and we were fortunate to bring home some treasures today.  Jerry paints bits of tree limbs and roots that he finds lying about as well as shells and bones from animals.  There were some roots and branches whose shapes said to Jerry they were a chicken, a whippoorwill, and a tadpole. Here you see the tadpole.

And this piece is one of a series where he painted insects on tortoise shells.  This one, Water Strider Flotilla, includes images of those known as pond skimmers, water striders, Jesus bugs, water skaters, or pond skitters.

Time spent with Jerry and Rose is a treasure in itself.  Rose was away for part of the morning, so our visit with her was abbreviated this time.

Dr. Payne is an amazing person whose breadth of knowledge seems neverending.  He is best known in some circles for his ground breaking work in forensic science.  In the 1960’s, he detailed the changes that occur as insects are introduced to decomposing pig carcasses.  A documentary film has been made about his life and a more complete biography is here.


And for those who read this blog hoping to see a quilt of some description, here is one of my latest art pieces.  A butterfly photo is relevant, don’t you think?  This is Swallowtail in the Briarpatch.  A photo of Jim’s I printed on silk fabric, quilted using free motion machine stitching with silk thread, then framed it with a batik and some cottons.
The stalk of the flower and some leaves are stitched with a heavier rayon thread.  The finished piece is mounted on foam core and measures 11” x 14”.

Mail Call

Oh, boy, oh, boy!  Excitement arrived in the mailbox today.  I opened a package from a distant relative and was transported back in time to the days when my Grandfather wrote letters to me from California.  I was in elementary school and he was my best pen pal!  He typed his letters on onionskin paper and folded them very precisely to fit just so in the red and white striped air mail envelope.

Our newsy exchanges were pretty humdrum everyday stuff, but it was exciting to me because our letters traveled by plane.  GrandDaddy had moved to California when I was a young child to escape the Georgia humidity with his asthma.  He did return to visit a few times,  and there were occasional long distance phone calls, but our deepest conversations during my formative years were by letter.

After my most recent post including him in a photo, Ilse and I chatted and she said she had more photos of his that she could send.  GrandDaddy (Homer Youngblood) had two families.  My mother was born to his first wife, Cora, who died when my mother was four years old and her sister was two.  Later, GrandDaddy married Miss Katherine and had two more children.  Ilse married Homer, Jr. and is the keeper of many memories and stories he shared.

Today is the anniversary of my first blog post.  Site stats say this is the 105th post I’ve written.  I never made a formal plan to share something on a schedule, and didn’t really have a plan as to what I would include.  If I had an original goal in mind, it was to continue the journaling I’ve done on paper, on cloth in 52 Tuesdays, and now on the web, to encourage others to record their stories in some way.

This blog has grown into a way to document my quilt stories, old works and new projects as well.  The new projects that excite me have included many photos, sometimes family members, so the old stories behind the photos have now been written down, too.  And I’ve been the joyous recipient of others’ stories (and sometimes their photos) once readers knew I was interested in such things.


This package from Ilse holds some family photos, both previously seen and new to my eyes, as well as some of unknown people GrandDaddy was hired to photograph.  All are interesting, but the treasures are the ones of him that I had not seen before.  Oh, my, I think Ilse in Arizona must have heard me squealing as I opened the package!

Now to scan, print, and stitch!

Sewing Notions


Look at this bit of info I found inside a package wrapper on some vintage seam binding.  What a wonderful marketing strategy to entice sewing mothers to introduce their daughters to the craft!

I found this when I opened a package of rayon binding to use as ties in a drawstring bag.  There is no copyright date or price on this package, but a similar one with 1939 as the date has a price of 29₵.

And then this one advertising a product to increase the length and breadth of a child’s dress is interesting, too.  My mother sewed beautiful clothes for me and for others, but I never recall seeing this product.  Maybe because I was so frightfully petite, there was no need to have “galloons” in our vocabulary.

This discovery was fun, the research on Wrights reveals its long history in the sewing industry…since 1897.  The name is still used on notions, but now owned by Simplicity.  This is according to Wikipedia.  Another site with even more info is here.

You know from past posts that I love buying vintage fabrics and trims.  I find the old ones to be superior because of materials used and the flea market pricing, but the history lessons are valuable, too.  I bought some of these trims on this adventure.

There is good news about young people learning to sew in today’s world.  The Modern Quilt Guild and the aesthetic they promote is enticing young people to sewing and quilting in a big way.  Applause, please.  Times have changed and children aren’t learning to sew from their mothers by making doll clothes any more, but children are interested in sewing.  And more good news:  it’s now ok to get boys interested, too.

The drawstring bags are made using a pattern from Jeni Baker here.  I see now that her site has a video tutorial for the bags, but the pattern alone is very clear.  Her design is great!  You quickly end up with a nice lined drawstring bag and directions are given for multiple sizes.