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.

Hearts in the Kitchen

This time of year we see hearts in abundant numbers.  This symbol of love is everywhere, and often seen in shades of red.

I love the heart motif and have it all around my house and in quilts I’ve made.  This year I’ve been adding to my bowl of blue hearts in the breakfast room.  I made a few last year and in the past couple of weeks, I’ve been adding more.

I’ve used ribbons, buttons, and lace to embellish some of them.  In other cases, I just stitched and stuffed some of my favorite fabrics.  I added French knots to one.  On another I stitched pearls from a rescued strand I bought.  The fabrics include barkcloth, vintage ticking, African indigo batik, hand-dyed linen, bits of an old quilt, and fabrics from well-worn clothing.

This bowl of stories sits on the breakfast room table.  It warms my heart (pun not intended, but appropriate, I guess) to recall memories associated with each element.

Oh, I can use red fabric, too.

 

Photo notes:  The pitcher with heart is part of my Rowe pottery collection.  The wooden bowl (and possibly some of the spoons) is by my favorite wood carver, Ralph Smith.  The heart-shaped bark basket holds memories of St. Simons Island where I bought it many many years ago.

Quilters’ Retreat

A few days ago, I crashed a party.  We were on a backroads jaunt and I remembered that some of my friends were attending a quilting retreat at a nearby wildlife refuge.  I asked Jim to make a stop and let me say Hello.  He asked, “Can you just pop in?  Were you invited? “  I assured him, “It will be fine.  They won’t mind.  They will all be happy to show me their projects.”

And, they were.  They were busy.  They were happy.  And they did not mind my intrusion.

There is a reason many quilters like the bee motif.  Quilters and bees buzz about with a purpose in mind and get things done!

I was greeted with smiles and hugs from many friends, and made the acquaintance of new quilters as well.  Sheila and Barbara and Jean and Donna were the first to see me and report on the fun.  I didn’t get photos of everyone’s work, but everyone was busy and productive.
Angie was piecing some animals.  Mary was working with baskets.  Jean had stars on her design wall.  She had discovered that her alternate blocks were cut from directional fabric, unnoticed until they were put on the wall.  She had lots of advisors to help her decide how to deal with this dilemma.

Joyce had two big appliqué projects: a Baltimore Album that just needs a few details and a border attached, and a fabulous Kim McLean pattern all with big pieces of Kaffe fabrics.  Joyce is one of our guild’s charter members and she still produces more quilts than several of the rest of us combined!  She was sitting beside Hilda, her BFF for more than FIFTY years.  They have worked on many projects and been to many retreats and heard many stories in that time, don’t you know?

Dewey was there with his longarm machine and an eight-foot table.  He had already quilted two quilts at the retreat for other participants and was doodling on his machine while he waited for others to get backs prepared for him to quilt their tops.

Here is Donna working on a One-Block Wonder.  And Dewey had just finished the quilting on her Friendship Garden  before the retreat.  Now she can add the binding and label and it’s done!

Mary had run to the store, but her work-in-progress is here.  Mary is the organizer of this event.  Someone has to take charge and she does it well!  She reserves the space, organizes the guest list, plans the food, and assures that everyone has fun.  And she is successful, because these people plan their calendars around Mary’s retreat dates.  Because of her, the sisterhood thrives.

Candace is a local designer and teacher with her own line of patterns.  Here she is working on a new pattern design.  And there were some of her finished products with chickens made from her hand-woven fabrics.  Wow!

Lynn was putting the finishing touches on a garden scene, while Eleanor was working on a batik project complete with labels to insure that every block ended up in exactly the right place.

Getting away from home, focusing on a project or two, socializing while you work, learning from each other, what a blast!  I loved visiting this beehive.

Studying a Master

At the urging of my friend Priscilla, Jim and I took a road trip today to Newnan, Ga.  Selections from Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry’s body of work are on display there.  This amazing quiltmaker’s work has always intrigued me, so we hit the road.

Our route was along backroads, as usual for us, and we included some antiquing and enjoying other parts of the day, but the purpose and highlight was studying some 43 pieces of Caryl’s work.  We were almost the only ones there, photography was allowed, so we took our time. I read every word of her descriptions, studying the weight and fiber content of thread, marveling at the stitches she used and noting the color choices in each space.

Like many quiltmakers, Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry began making traditional quilts with commercial fabrics.  Over the years, her style developed using her hand-dyed fabrics, then a line of commercial Gradations fabric that she designed.  Some of her work is abstract, but all is full of meaning.  And the girl knows her mathematics!

Some of the work was familiar to me as signature Caryl Bryer Fallert – like the feather studies, the Fibonacci series, and her dancers.  Others, specifically the pictorial ones, were surprising to me that they were hers. Each piece was interesting in its own way.  I learned a lot from the experience, but being able to take close up photos of the quilting designs meant that I will learn from her work over and over again.

There’s something about seeing a quilt in person that makes it worth the trip.  Technology allows us to learn a lot online, to study excellent professional photos that inform us of details, and even to take classes from experts.  I’m familiar with Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry’s work though those technologies.  But the tactile nature of fabric means that any distance from a piece of fiber art diminishes the intimacy of the art form.  So being close enough to touch (even though I didn’t dare) brings that back into the experience.

I’ve seen some of Caryl’s work in shows in the past, but today at my leisure, I examined a variety of her works spanning forty years of quilt making.  Wow.

The Donald Nixon Center for the Performing and Visual Arts is currently “Forty Years of Light and Motion” through February 17.  Their website is here if you want details.  And Caryl’s website is here if you want to read more about her.

All photos are of Caryl Bryer Fallert’s work on display at the Nixon Center in Newnan, GA.

Beds and Breakfasts

We are Bed & Breakfast travelers sometimes.  When we leave home, we like adventure.  B&Bs  provide a unique experience every time.  And, in thirty years of enjoying this, I can’t think of one that didn’t prove to be positive.  Of course, there was the one where we stopped and looked around, but choose not to stay the night because it seemed spooky to Jim.

We’ve stayed in one inn, the York House, so many times that we know more of its history than the most recent owners.  Others we’ve visited a few times, many only one time.  In Asheville, we stayed in a former insane asylum, in Pigeon Forge, we stayed in Patricia Neal’s favorite home-away-from-home, and in Waynesville, we were given a free upgrade to the Tasha Tudor room when I recognized some of her work framed on the wall.

Though all are one of a kind, our experiences have revealed some similarities.  Included in this list are quaint decor, privacy, friendly service, and a sense of getting away from it all.  Rarely are there noisy residents (though we did share a B&B one time with a wedding party who was a bit raucous after the rehearsal dinner), phones ringing, televisions blaring.

We’ve stayed in B&Bs in the mountains, at the beach, in warm weather and cold (oh, my goodness was it cold once in Charleston – and our room was at the back of a long addition to an antebellum cottage.  We thought the heat must have been distributed from the front to the back).  We’ve enjoyed them in small, medium, and large cities, and in out-of-the-way places that made us wonder how guests ever found them often enough to keep them in business.

Breakfast is always provided. Sometimes its’s on a silver tray delivered to the room at the designated time with coffee and fresh baked pastries.  Other times, breakfast is served in a large dining room with family style seating with other guests.  My journals have pages of descriptions of conversations with fellow travelers.  Names usually escape me, but some of their adventures I remember.  The couple who rode Segways around an art village, the potter whose mugs hold our coffee twenty-something years later, the Florida couple looking for mountain real estate in North Carolina, and the innkeeper asking if we met the resident ghost during the night come to mind.

I suspect some of those people remember me as the lady who takes a sewing basket wherever she goes.

B&Bs are often in old houses with creaky floors, clawfoot tubs, temperamental water faucets, and steep stairs.  In our most recent B&B abode, we actually stayed in a cottage property which had a kitchen of sorts.  The stove and refrigerator were minimal in size, and even the sloped roof seemed designed for small people.

The tiny desk tucked in a corner made us think of all the creativity that had come from such quaint attic spaces.  Jim commented on the quaintness at the same time that he said he would go insane ducking his head all the time.  My reply was that many creative people did just that – went insane.

The make-do decor in B&B’s is always interesting.  Many time inn owners have clearly been decorating on a budget, saving the big bucks for luxurious towels, fine soaps, and good food.  This kitchen faucet intrigued us.  Perhaps repurposed, it extended past the perimeter of the sink in most positions.  Fun and funny to us!

Photos: The blue tumbling block quilt measures 26″ square.  I was working on it while visiting Waynesville, NC, in 2005.  It is hand pieced and free-motion machine quilted.  Here I am seen stitching the binding.  But the blocks are hand pieced, and that is a great sewing project for travel.

The white house with blue star is the fabric interpretation of a cottage in Mt. Dora, Fl.  That block is part of Fifty-Two Wednesdays, still in progress.

Drugstore Deli

Sometimes the quaintest treasures are right in our own backyards.  On a recent afternoon when we were out antiquing, we found a delightful lunch spot in an old downtown building in small town USA.

As is our habit, we were eating after the crowded hour, in fact, we had the place to ourselves.  It was open, inviting, very clean, and offered just the menu we were looking for; soups, sandwiches, salads.

Our waitress Vicki told us that the soup was almost gone, being in high demand on a such a cold day.  There was less than a serving (by their standards) left of today’s special so they gave us a complimentary bowl.  It was fabulous, as were our sandwiches.  But before the food was served, I was captivated by the decor.  There were quilts!  An old log cabin quilt first caught my eye.  It was hung above a beautiful dresser and its subtle colors and handwork stole my heart!  A more modern medallion quilt was displayed in another corner, and yet another eyecatcher, a blue and white quilt, was used on a table.

I asked permission to take photos and shared my fascination with the old log cabin quilt.  The conversation led to an old-home-week kind of reunion with people I’d never met.  Jo, the owner, came out of the kitchen to share the quilt stories.  The log cabin quilt came from her husband’s family.  Her father-in-law had two aunts,  Alice and Exor, who did a lot of needlework of all types.  One or maybe both of these women worked on this piece of family history.

 Jo is not a quilter, but has treasured the quilts these family members made and decorates her home and restaurant with them.  Vicki has done needlework in the past, but quilting is not part of her experience (yet) though she has friends who sew and quilt.

In the course of the conversation, I learned that Jo’s husband, and his quilting aunts, were related to Ferrol Sams. Yes, the same Ferrol Sams whose novels and short stories are part of the great storytelling tradition of the South.

The sisterhood of experiences connecting us with needle and thread is never to be denied.  Vicki told of her friend who makes bags, pillows, quilts, when she hears of a need.  I recalled the women in the Peachtree City guild who were making tote bags and duffle bags for children in foster care to use.  I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of women who sew.

I have a stack of muted red fabrics from the French General line that are waiting to be cut up and sewn back together.  After seeing that old quilt in similar colors hanging in the Drugstore Deli, I’m thinking log cabin is a good plan.

Our outing that day was a mere 20 miles from home, in Byron, Ga.  The Drugstore Deli is in corner building near the railroad tracks.