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”.  

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!

Four Brothers

The man on the far right…what’s that he’s holding in his hand?  That’s my grandfather, here with three of his brothers.  When I find a photo in which he is included, I’m always intrigued by how the photo was taken, since he was usually the one behind the camera.

I recently wrote about the coincidence that both my husband and I had maternal grandfathers who were professional photographers.  Sometimes we can find a cable in the photo leading to a remote shutter release.  Those were available from as early as 1918 in  advertisements like this one found here.

In this case, zooming and examining (you can click on any image to enlarge it) reveals no cable, and in the 1940’s when this photo was probably taken, there was no timer built in to cameras as we have now.  However, my Grandfather did have a son who helped him with his photography business by that time. Homer, Jr. went to work in the darkroom at age 7, in 1935.  It is likely that he, Jr.,  is the one taking this photo.  And, GrandDaddy is probably holding the remnants of a cigar.

I printed this photo on fabric from a vintage linen tablecloth, painted some elements, layered it on wool batting, and stitched around the figures with silk thread.  It is layered on cotton fabric, a layer of old burlap, and then on an old quilt remnant.  The resulting piece measures 14” x 17”.


The process of stitching these photos sometimes yields as interesting an image on the back as on the front.  Here you see what one viewer considered the shadows of these brothers.

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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.

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.

What’s in a Name?

Sarah Beth, Sarah Bob, Sarah Frances.  Margaret Ann, Lou Emmelyn, Mary Frances; all are common names in the South.  And with women, both halves of the double names are used on a daily basis.  Shortened forms of Mary Elizabeths I’ve known were Lilly Bet, Mae Liz, and the ever popular Mary Beth. To get the right perspective here, you should read the list aloud, slowly.  Very slowly.  Put a little twang in there.  Now you’ve got it.

Names run through cycles of popularity.  In one generation, almost all the Sadies have died out.  Then there is a rash of little Sadies running around. I think that particular name is beautiful, because it is beautiful, and the Sadie (actually in her generation it was Sadie Belle) in my life was a beautiful person.  She is the woman pictured at the top of this post.  There was a beautiful Cleo in my life, too.  But I’m not hoping to see that name resurrected.  The same goes for Ena Belle, Maudie Lee, and Mary Etta.  Those don’t roll trippingly off the tongue.

In the South, if a woman doesn’t have a double name already, we make it so by adding Miss or Aunt.  Miss Lily, Miss Emily, Aunt Gladys (though no kinship exists) were big in my life.  And then I became Miss Sandy.

When it comes time to naming quilts, I sometimes resort to the southern names of my childhood.  I’ve made a Miss Lily’s Basket, Ruby’s Red Bouquet, Miss Emily’s BasketsOllie Jane’s Flower Garden was named for my grandmother and the pieced pattern used for the center.  Granny Zee’s Scrap Baskets has a sentimental reason for its name, too.

Miz Sadie Turns 80 was made for my mother-in-law in 2004.  The blocks are the traditional Ohio Star blocks, finished at 9”.  Sashing is 1” wide (beginning my insistence that narrow sashing separates, but doesn’t overwhelm the blocks).  The overall quilt measures 63” square. It is pictured here hanging at the Georgia National Fair in 2004, one of the first quilt competitions I entered.  It won a blue ribbon, and Miz Sadie was so pleased that she asked if she could have the ribbon, too.  The quilt hung in her home with ribbon attached, as long as she lived there.

The label is a sunprinted image using metal letters used in scrapbooking as the mask.  I didn’t have three lower case s’s, thus the spelling of Miz. The quilting is a pantagraph done by Pat Holston on her longarm.  This quilt was featured in a Kansas City Star publication, My Stars, in 2009.

 

Grits for Supper

 

Grits are a staple in any southern girl’s diet.  We have them for breakfast sometimes, but all my life I’ve had grits at sunset more often than at sunrise.

My mother occasionally served a breakfast menu at suppertime.  Usually country salt-cured ham and redeye gravy were part of that, along with grits, eggs, and exploding biscuits.  (Thus the comment young Wallace made.)   And we always had grits when we had fried fish for supper.  Nowadays, breakfast menu items appear at supper in the form of omelets all year long.  But when the weather is cool, we sometimes have the full meal with sausage or ham, eggs, biscuits, and grits.

Every time I make grits, I think of my friend Ferrelle.  Ferrelle owned a wonderful cooking, kitchen, and gift shop, and served up fabulous ideas for enjoying life.  We once had a conversation about grits which “upped my game”.  Ferrelle’s advice included using stone ground grits (we favor the yellow ones from Nora’s Mill in Helen, GA), cooking them with chicken broth rather than water, and adding a bit of cream right before removing them from the heat.  Oh, my.  They are so rich and creamy.  I vary the flavor by adding different cheeses at times, and cooked, crumbled bacon on top adds flavor and garnish.

Since Ferrelle retired, I rarely see her.  But we keep in touch through mutual friends and Facebook.  And I think of her often when I use a kitchen gadget that I bought from her, when I need a gift for someone and mourn the fact that her store is no longer around, but most especially when I cook grits.

In recent years, I’ve added a “grits and greens” casserole to my cooking repetoire, giving grits an excuse to appear at lunchtime or to go to a potluck dinner.  A google search by for that title will yield many recipes, but Ferrelle’s advice will make any of those better, too.

There is a drawback to possessing this knowledge.  Sometimes we see grits on a menu in a restaurant and order them.  We are always, always, disappointed.

Photo notes:  Since I seem to think everything should be a story in cloth, I’ve begun stitching on a Nora’s Mill bag.  You see images of the front and backside.  More work to be done, but I know you’re hungry, so go cook some grits.

Addendum:  How could I forget fried grits?  After I posted this, a friend reminded me, saying that her grandmother “would also refrigerate left over grits in a shallow pan, then dip chilled finger-sized slices in beaten egg and fry them like French toast. These, drenched in syrup and served with a patty of sausage, made a wonderful Sunday evening meal.”

I haven’t tried the French toast/syrup idea, but I have fried them similarly and served them as a side dish with grilled salmon or pork chops.  At least once I prepared them similarly and served them as croutons on a salad of Spring Mix greens with goat cheese and prosciutto.  A balsamic vinaigrette topped it off.  It was wonderful.  How could I have forgotten that?

Fruitcake

Turman Capote and I have a shared history.  We had loving spinster aunts as partners in fruitcake preparation.  When I taught a high-school course called the American Short Story, students’ reactions to the old-fogey ways Capote related in his A Christmas Memory were not ones of delight.  But I was thrilled to revisit my childhood.

It’s the time of year when I buy things at the grocery store that I would normally never allow past my lips.  Some candied fruit (I don’t even want to know how that is accomplished), a lot of sugar, butter, nuts, disposable baking pans.

This is a result of a lifelong habit of eating fruitcake at Christmastime.  My mother baked the dark fruitcakes for as long as I can remember.  She chopped all the fruit by hand, added nuts that either my grandmother or my Daddy had picked out of the shells, and that I had picked up from underneath the trees at home, and filled the house with a delightful smell including vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Mama made these cakes and gave them to family and friends.  Her gifts were generous, a full recipe baked in a tube cake pan.  They were huge!  Every year the search was on to find a store selling the round tins which would hold these 5-lb treasures.

Once I was grown, I became a recipient of the heavy gift in the tin.  Mama would always have ours ready to take home at Thanksgiving and we would savor the treat throughout the holidays.

Jim found a way to improve on Mama’s recipe.  We would remove her foil or waxed paper wrapping, substituting cheesecloth.  The cheesecloth would soak up the brandy Jim added and make the cake more moist.  Yes, that’s it, moist.  Once when Mama came to visit us at Christmas, I served dessert.  She remarked, “This is GOOD fruitcake.  Who made it?”  “I made it?  Are you sure?”  “Well, I don’t know.  This tastes much better than the one at my house.”  We never confessed the alteration.

Mama gave a cake to anyone who she thought would like them.  Only when I started following in her footsteps did I realize what a gift a fruitcake was.  The time, and expense, to bake these was no small matter.  A few years ago, a cousin said, “You know your Mama always made me a dark fruitcake at Christmas.  I always took it.  But I couldn’t stand those things.”  She lowers her voice when she uttered the words “dark fruitcake,” as it she were speaking of something evil.  Now that I think about it, I bet Mama realized Charlotte was unappreciative, but she was one of those people who would have been hurt had Mama not given her one.

I’ve found some shortcuts to Mama’s process.  I sometime buy nuts already shelled, and bake the concoction in small foil pans.  Once the cakes are cooled, they are ready to wrap for presentation to appreciative friends.  I know fruitcakes are the punch lines for many jokes, and I know we are all more conscious of our diets these days, but most reactions I get to the fruitcakes I share are of the “oh, I love this – it takes me back to Christmas of my childhood” type.  And when I take a plate of sliced fruitcake to social gatherings this time of year, it’s always emptied.

If your mouth is watering for a trip down memory lane, here is Mama’s recipe.

  • Mama’s Stirring Fruitcake
  • 1 lb candied cherries
  • ½ lb candied pineapple (white)
  • ½ lb candied pineapple (green)
  • 3 pts shelled nuts, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ lb raisins (⅔ cup)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ lb butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring
  • 2 teaspoons almond flavoring
  • 2 teaspoons cake spices
  • Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at the time and beat well.  Add flour and spices and beat well.  Add fruit and nuts.  Pour into a large greased pan and place in 375 degree oven (note that she found 300 degrees in her oven to be better).  After baking 15 minutes, stir.  Do this a total of 3 times.  After 3rd time, pack in tube cake pan and bake 15 minutes longer.  Let stand in pan for 15 minutes before turning out.

My recipe notes:

I reduce the nuts to about 4 cups.

“cake spices” seem to be unavailable these days, so I use: 1 t. allspice, ½ t. nutmeg, and ½ t. cinnamon

I sometimes use 3” x 5” loaf pans to give as gifts.  This recipe fills five of those.  The plate pictured above the recipe shows one of those small loaf pans sliced.  So the whole recipe is five of those!

Note:  An internet search will yield numerous links to Truman Capote’s story, analyses of that work, and even audio files for your seasonal listening.  It’s worth the time.

Pomegranates and Poinsettias


For many years I decorated for Christmas using my Grandmother’s basket quilt she made in 1890 (that story is  here).  When I started quilting, I longed to make my own holiday quilt.  Now one of the first steps in decorating our house for Christmas is to swap out the fall quilts for red and green ones.


I love to sew with red and green fabrics during this time of the year so I often start a new project for my sewing serenity during the season.  In the days of Christmas 2008, I began work on what became  Pomegranates and Poinsettias.  I was spending quite a bit of time with my mother-in-law, Sadie, during a time of failing health for her.

She loved helping me decide which red fabric should be used for a particular bloom, which green should be used for stems and leaves.  She loved the sampler background (as does everyone else who sees this quilt), and when I decided to add buttons for the berries, she giggled like a little girl.  Imagine, putting BUTTONS on a quilt.
That was something her mother had never done!  This piece was finished in June 2009 and has been the focal point on a wall in our house every Christmas since.  It is based the Holly Threads pattern by Need’l Love.  Mine finishes at 44″ square.