Sunday School Picnic

Another family photo has become a quilt.  This image of my husband’s grandparents was taken sometime around 1915, probably at Stone Mountain, GA.  The occasion was a Sunday School picnic.

I printed the image on a bit of vintage linen napkin, painted his tie, and machine stitched using free-motion quilting.  The rickrack frame is hand stitched around the photo on a layer of hand-dyed cotton fabric.

I used metallic thread to stitch the red layer to a vintage quilt remnant using a seed stitch, adding a bit of sparkle.

The label is a vintage coaster stitched to the old quilt remnant, too.  The final piece measures 12″ x 14″.


Pa, he bought him a great big billy goat

Ma, she washed most every day

Hung her clothes out on the line

And that old goat, he’d come that way.

My Daddy didn’t sing a lot, but this song was one of his favorites.  I can hear his gravelly voice belting it out now, often at my request or a plea from any of his grandchildren.  I don’t recall my mother or my sister requesting it – it wasn’t refined enough for them.  Especially the part when the goat belched up that red flannel shirt and he flagged down that durned old freight.

The musical interlude might be followed by the story of Daddy’s experience with goat farming, or rather the decision to end that venture.  Something about a goat and a pond and repeated disciplinary action leaving the goat wet and calmer while Daddy was exhausted.

So fond memories might explain why I like to see goats in a pasture, have taken lots of photos of goats, and why they end up in quilts.

goat-challengeThe guild’s quilt challenge for 2013 required us to use small bits of fabric from Tess’s stash.  The Challenge Queen does this occasionally; requiring the use of what some might think of as uglies.  That certainly was the case for my envelope.  Yuck.  A red and black color combination was given to me, a calico and something else, 2” squares of each.  I tried several things that didn’t make my heart sing, but at some point  I remembered a pattern from Country Threads featuring pieced goats.

I found an assortment of farm and goat looking fabric, pieced three blocks, added a title, and used the ugly fabric as a couple of their kerchiefs.  The piece finishes at 24″ x 18″ and was freemotion quilted using cotton batting and cotton threads.

goat-showA well-dressed goat appears in 52 Tuesdays, too.  One of our visits to the Georgia National Fair in 2015 included attending a goat show.  I was intrigued by the goats awaiting their competition.  After being bathed, blown dry, and powdered, they were often wearing jackets so they stayed clean and sawdust free until their competition.  One wearing a leopard skin coat caught my eye and became the image for that week in the journal quilt.

And, once a goat appeared on the label of one of my quilts, Hartwell Commons.

The photo of the live goat, not in cloth (yet) was taken at the Jimmy Carter Boyhood Home national historic site near Plains, Ga.

Treasure Hunting

A beautiful fall day, an escape from routine, time spent with my best friend, vintage linens; how can I decide which one of these is the most treasured?

treasures-bee-linenYesterday Jim and I went junking.  Well, not really.  Dumpster divers we aren’t.  We aren’t even heavily into yard sales or estate sales.  We like antique malls where someone else has made the selections, maybe done some cleaning up, and displayed items in a pleasing manner.  Well, the last is not always true.  But, we do like antique malls.

We’ve had booths before.  The set up and decorating is fun, but we didn’t make a lot of money because we don’t enjoy the junky level of searching. But as is true in all aspects of life, it’s not about the money.  We do find Saturdays out and about discovering treasures, recalling memories, and driving back roads to get there to be joyous.

Yesterday’s finds were numerous.  Now that I have found a way to include vintage linens that I love in my quiltmaking, I sometimes have a list of things I need.  Often it’s linen to use in the printer for photos, or fabric doilies and coasters to use as labels.  Yesterday I really needed nothing.  I have quite a collection on hand and friends have even started sharing their treasures hoping I can find a use for them.

treasures-old-quiltBut  I did find a few things I couldn’t leave behind.  An old quilt with a masculine look will be perfect as the backing for men in photographs.  The homespun backside is amazing, too.  A blue cross-stitched linen tablecloth.  A couple of bargain pieces which will be amazing labels, and a lovely bee!

treasures-coatsI didn’t really plan to spend a day this week cutting apart old wool coats and felting them.  But at $5.00 each, these 100% wool coats begged to be included in a quilt project.  Ok, will do.  Any ideas about what to do with the fur collar?

treasures-boothAnd I found inspiration!  Not so much in the textiles themselves, but in displays.  Old suitcases opened with vintage trims and fabrics inside, laces and ribbons wrapped around old wooden spindles, jars of buttons pleasingly arranged.  These kinds of things make my heart sing.

Julie Cameron would be proud of the date my inner artist had yesterday.  Not a solitary trip, but a real date with my soulmate and my soul!  The drive though pasture land (the solitary chimney on 52 Tuesdays was on the route), lunch at one of our favorite local establishments, and an ice-cream cone treat reminiscent of childhood drives made it heavenly!

My Threaded Needle

bluebird on linenSaturday night finds me stitching through layers of delight:

A photo of Eastern Bluebirds made by Jim Gilreath  is printed on a vintage linen tablecloth.

The photo is layered on hand-dyed Osnaburg fabric the color of the male bluebird’s breast.

These are atop a remnant of vintage linen dipped in my indigo vat.

My needle is pulling smooth cotton thread through these layers and wool batting.

I am accompanied by live music from the photographer and his stringed instruments.

Are there really people in the world who would prefer to be anywhere else?  I can’t imagine.


country storeHow long has it been since you saw a young lad execute a backflip from a wooden platform into the river below?

My answer to that question is “a few hours.”

On a day trip to Warm Springs, we took a route we’d not followed before.  All routes there are backroads, but most are some we’ve traveled many times.  A new path holds wonder.  With a favorite remark my driver likes to make, “this time and one more will make twice I’ve been on this road,” we were off on a new adventure.

Taking grandsons on a historic field trip, we saw numerous churches and cemeteries, a small community populated with an old store, schoolhouse, and church, all white buildings wearing red roofs.  We found two small towns filled with antique shops, a delightful restaurant with homemade bread, hamburgers topped with pimento cheese, and met a Corgi named Macon.

At the Little White House museum, I learned more about barkcloth than I ever realized I didn’t know.  Someone gave FDR a gift of beautiful yardage of tapa, and the story led me to new details about one of my favorite fabrics.  Who knew I would learn fabric history on this adventure?

It was on the way home that we saw him.  As we crossed a bridge over the Flint River, we saw the jump.  We were too high to see how cleanly he made his entrance into the water.

It doesn’t matter.  He had all afternoon to perfect his form.

We had had our moment.  A glimpse, memories triggered, stories to share.  Time travel.



Lee Smith is one of my favorite Southern writers.  I just bought her memoir and can’t wait to start reading it.  I love her writing, I love memoirs, I love the South.  So I know it will be a treasured experience to read her story.  More than that, the title suggests that I might identify with some of her experiences.

My first job as a teenager was in a dimestore.  Oh, I had earned money at home for various special chores.  Like Truman Capote, I picked up pecans in the fall of the year. (Some grammarians would rather read that I gathered pecans, but that’s not what we said in Sycamore. Furthermore, as you read it, think pea-cans, to get the sound of the word right in your mind.)  If you’ve ever read his “A Christmas Memory,” you can get an idea of the experience of fruitcake baking that took place at our house.  I even had a spinster aunt to guide me as Capote did.

And, there was a day picking cotton (probably a couple of hours) at Uncle Hal’s field, and a day in the tobacco barn (also Uncle Hal’s).  My Daddy had given up farming for building by the time I was born, but he realized the experience of field labor would be soon forgotten and that I should have those memories.  He was right on both counts.  Of course.

Oh, my job at the dimestore.

The year I turned fifteen, I was eligible to get a work permit and get a job.  My mother took me to the school superintendent’s office to complete the appropriate paperwork.  I recall Mr. Royal counseling me that, “this should not interfere with your schoolwork, of course.”  Well, of course; it wouldn’t.  I was the class nerd before nerd was a word.  Nothing came before my schoolwork.

But now I was legal.  On Saturdays, I reported to Elrod’s Five and Dime on Main Street in Ashburn.  I guess I worked from 9:00 until 5:00, I don’t recall the exact hours.  I do recall the pay.  It was $5.00 and change.  Literally.  Cash.  In a small manila envelope.

There were three of us teenagers working; the manager, and another adult full-time employee.  Carl lifted all the heavy boxes, swept the oiled wood floors with sweeping compound, and helped with serving customers.  Carolyn and I offered assistance to customers, kept shelves filled with reserves from beneath the old wooden counters, and watched for shoplifters.

Saturday was a busy day; there wasn’t much time for small talk,  But, in the quiet times, I learned to bond with co-workers.  We did not know each other so had nothing in common other than this experience.  We learned from our customers, too.  A wide range of society came through those doors, and the dimestore sold everything from toys to tools.  There were clothing items for children and underwear for adults.  The first time a customer asked for “step-ins,”  I replied that we didn’t carry those.  Carolyn had to translate for me.  Oh.  I taught her the difference in a wrench and screwdriver.

We sold bulk candy, learning to scoop from the bins and weigh on a scale now sold in antique stores.  We mixed the sticky syrup that went into making “slushies” when they were new.  Dare I say that we did not wash our hands frequently, and there were no plastic gloves?  It was a simpler time.

We wrapped Christmas packages with the stern manager watching over our shoulder to ensure that the paper didn’t overlap too much and that we didn’t use too much scotch tape.  The paper was quite thin, and tearing it was wasteful, too, so we learned to be fast and careful and frugal.  There were no boxes or gift bags, so some oddly shaped packages required some creative thinking. The paper curling ribbon was final flourish.  Today, even though I have wired ribbon on hand to decorate my packages, I keep some paper curling ribbon on hand.

I worked at Elrod’s on Saturdays, some weekdays in the summer, and during Christmas holidays for the last three years of high school.  In the last year, the business relocated to a more modern building.  I guess it was more comfortable; being air-conditioned and having slick tile floors.  But it never seemed the same.  The old building, the theatre next door, and the railroad track across the street were all part of the ambiance.  That theatre sold the world’s greatest french fries.  To this day, if I am served extraordinarily good, greasy, salty fries made from freshly sliced potatoes, I remember the ones Carl would go get for all of us at mealtime.

Now I guess it’s time to travel down Lee Smith’s memory lane with her Dimestore.

Photo:  If Carl, Carolyn, and I were working teens these days, we would have numerous group selfies, I’m sure.  But the best I can do here is a blurry scanned image of myself during those years.  Yes, I made the dress.

People Watching

SatterfieldsEating lunch at a local restaurant, I couldn’t help but imagine the story behind the man sitting behind my husband.

This man was alone.  He was neatly dressed with not a hair out of place.  His wardrobe was casual blue collar – a sports shirt advertising motorcycles tucked into neatly pressed blue jeans.  His hands were clean, but probably not professionally manicured.

He was tearing up a garden salad while intently listening to his phone.  The restaurant was a bit noisy so seeing the phone held with the speaker right in his ear was not surprising, but he never talked, just listened.  A podcast, perhaps?  Audio entertainment for dining alone? No, maybe voicemails.  Someone working outdoors couldn’t hear his phone and might use lunchtime to catch up on missed contacts.

Had he been wearing galluses over a white shirt and pleated trousers, I would have thought he was waiting for a jury’s verdict.  Or getting dirt on a witness from his private eye in the field.

I was impressed with his power lunch.  Then the waitress brought the rest of it.  One-half of a roasted chicken, three vegetables and bread.  With his trim physique, he doesn’t eat like that every meal unless he is doing some physical labor somewhere.  But not a sign of sweat anywhere.

Hmmm…  “the man in the gabardine suit is a spy.  His bowtie is really a camera.”


Wandering Vines

Wandering VinesIn February, I was quite busy with several demanding projects.  Some of them kept me occupied at the computer, others at the sewing machine,  preparing for our guild’s imminent quilt show.  What I needed was some hand stitching to soothe my rattled nerves.

I had these vines already cut from an assortment of fabrics, having planned to use them as a border on another quilt.  Once they were vetoed for that project, I saved them thinking I would just use them alone on a solid background.  I do love needleturn appliqué and find the process restful to my brain.

Wandering Vines backI found three colors I liked, chose a solid fabric for the background, and stitched them over a few evenings in front of the television.  Recently, I layered the top with Dream Wool batting and a piece of hand-dyed fabric from Wendy Richardson as the back.  I outlined the appliqué and stitched several rows of echo quilting using a variegated thread.  The various edge designs; pebbles, straight lines, and continuous curves were stitched using a neutral color thread of the same weight.

All quilting was hand guided, free motion stitching on my domestic machine.

four little pitchersThis whole project was based on revisiting something I had liked from an earlier quilt.  Four Little Pitchers was my entry in our guild’s annual challenge in 2009.  The challenge was to make a four-block quilt.  I drew the shapes of the pitchers based on some pieces from my pottery collection, used needleturn appliqué to stitch them to the black background, and separated the four blocks with a tiny (1/4”), subtle sashing of black with silver dots.  Then I appliquéd the vine using the pattern from Emily Senuta’s basket book, and continued the design with the quilting motif.  In that case, I continued the vine in green, then echoed all with a black thread.

four pitchers detailThe sashing turned out to be so tiny and so subtle that it became invisible, but I always liked the result of the vine motif and wanted to work with that design again.  Especially after I began using wool batting, I wanted to use it to give extra dimension to the leaves in the quilted vines.  The vine in the latest project is twice the size of the original pattern.

I still have more of the larger vines cut, so  I would like to explore even more possibilities with this simple, elegant shape.

Details of quilts:  Four Little Pitchers measures 38” x 43”.  Fabrics for pitchers is all hand-dyed Cherrywood fabric, vines are Fossill Fern fabrics.  Batting is Dream Cotton request.  All threads are DMC Broder machine embroidery thread; 50 weight / 2 ply cotton.

Wandering Vines measures 21” x 28”.  Appliqué fabrics are all commercial quilting cottons, the background fabric is hand-dyed Cherrywood cotton. Threads are DMC Broder embroidery thread; 50 weight / 2 ply cotton.

Rescuing Vintage Linens

linens my purchasesWhen antiquing, I keep my eye peeled for vintage linens like the ones I found today at Blue Moon Antiques and Vintage Junktion (both stores in Warner Robins, GA).  I’m always hoping to rescue a treasure from the trash bin.  I look for linen or cotton, and pass up any that have a polyester feel to them.  I want hand embroidery or appliqué, but don’t turn up my nose at some older pieces that were machine made.

Sometimes, if the price is right, I buy a tattered piece for the lace or tatting on the edge.  And, yes, I do buy the occasional doily.  One antique dealer commented to me last week that “doily” was the most creatively spelled word he saw on dealer’s tags.

I know which booths often have nice linens in the antique markets we frequent regularly.  I know those which often have pieces that aren’t marked and have learned to make a fair offer–it’s usually accepted.  I don’t plan to pay top dollar for my treasures because I do intend to eventually cut them up and sew them to something else.  But I often use tablecloths, tea towels, and napkins for their intended purpose first, giving the pieces a personal memory to attach to the art being created later.

Today’s outing found me bringing home some lovely treasures at bargain prices (and a couple that weren’t really bargains, but were just too lovely to leave behind).  I bought dresser scarves, napkins, tea towels, doilies, a couple of linen bridge table cloths, a baby’s dress with delicate blue embroidery, some vintage handkerchiefs, buttons, and ribbon.

linens store displayAs I’m looking and touching and plundering, I’m dreaming.  I’m planning and scheming projects galore!  I love it when a vendor asks, “what are you going to do with these?”  Today I pulled out my phone, shared a few photos of recent pieces, and gave them some ideas to ponder. I could see their wheels turning as well as mine.  After all, they love the vintage cloth, too.  That’s why they have so much on hand.


At the top, some of the treasures that came home with me.  Yes, the Longaberger basket was a bargain buy, too.  These double pie baskets make great sewing baskets.

Lower photo:  a booth in one of the stores showing just a small portion of the treasures I viewed today.

Quilting Sisters

Hilda's art quiltI had the pleasure today of visiting with not one, but two, of my favorite quilting sisters.  Joyce and Hilda are great friends. Friends to each other and friends to everyone they meet.  To visit with each of them separately in their homes today was a rare treat.

Joyce and Hilda are seldom still.  They are often not at home waiting for visitors, but instead are out galavanting about.  They participate in several small stitching groups that meet about town, they are active in guild meetings and go to several quilting retreats every year.  And, when they aren’t engaged in a church or stitching activity, they might be out shopping, in the pouring rain, looking for that perfect quilt backing to finish a project.

Does this sound like your typical image of more-than-90-year-old friends?  If not, you’d be wise to revise your stereotype.  Joyce and Hilda are dynamos. Their minds are sharper than a size 14 straw needle – I learn something every time I talk with either of them.

Hilda lives alone in the two-story house she’s occupied since 1990 or so.  She now has her sewing studio downstairs because her children worried about her climbing stairs so much while she was home alone.

Some of the approximately 100 bed quilts she’s made since she began quilting in 1987 are still here, others have been given away.  She’s hasn’t counted all the art and wall quits she’s made, but they are numerous and spectacular!  An avid student, Hilda has about a dozen trips to the John C. Campbell Folk School on her resume.  There she has explored topics such as basket making as well as quilting.

Her children and grandchildren are artistic too.  Her house is filled with art she likes and art they have made.  Pottery, wood turning, jewelry making, fabric printing, drawing, painting, all are in the family DNA.

The sewing studio is a haven for any stitcher.  There’s a cutting table open on all sides for easy access, and at a comfortable height for the statuesque lady.  A machine, tv, design wall, comfortable chair for hand stitching in front of the tv, cabinets to house the fabric overflow, and a fireplace for cozy wintertime work.  A serene workspace for a quilter of any age.

My visit with Joyce was not focused on stitching today.  We sat on her glorious wrap-around porch overlooking the lake.  Her luscious plants were a topic of conversation, as well as her recent experiences as caregiver for her 95-year-old sister.  We discussed her work with Western Union during WWII, her civilian work at our local Air Force installation during its early years, and her 33-year career at a wholesale pharmaceutical company.

Joyce was one of the charter members of our quilt guild in 1985.  Hilda joined the group in 1987.  Just think, each of these women was a career woman before being such was expected.  And, since retirement, each has had a long and productive career as a quiltmaker.  Many ribbons and awards have decorated their quilts along the way, and we are all still learning from them.

I’ve written before about missing the opportunity to explore quiltmaking in depth with my grandmother.  But with the quilting sisters now in my life, I’m reclaiming some years of experience and love.  Oh, how I love these women!

The photo is of an art piece made by Hilda.  It hangs over the mantel in her studio.