Portrait Of a Quilter

When someone finds out I quilt, I am always amazed at the shocked look that cross their face.  It is as if a quilter can be nothing more than a wrinkled old grandmother who sits wrapped in her shawl quilting...when she is not napping in front of re-runds of Matlock.  Their responses, while slightly delayed, are predictable, and I have heard them many, many times.  I get the, "Oh, I wish I could do that!" or "I've always wanted to learn."  My favorite has to be the "How nice for you",  which implies it's not nice for them.  What I love to hear is "My Grandmother used to quilt" which is quickly followed by "BUT she did it all by hand."  As if somehow I am cheating by using a machine.  I have done my share of hand quilting, a very small share.  I'll admit hand quilting is an art form, not one for the faint of heart or those afraid of a little blood.

Truthfully, many quilters are fortunate and do learn to quilt at their mother or Grandmother's knee.  I was not one of these fortunate quilters.  As far as I knew, no one genetically linked to me quilted at all.  And then I received this.

This quilt was Quilted by my Great-Grandmother. Inez Irick Huber.  Sadly there is no label stating when or where. (Label Your Quilts Ladies!)

I find this quilt an amazing work of art and patience.  Inez was the mother of 5 boys.  As the mother of 3 children, only 2 of whom are boys, I can see why she might have needed an outlet.  I never had the opportunity to meet her since she passed away before I was born.  When people speak of Inez it is always with strong words.  She was a small person with a defiant personality who was the driving force of her family.  (Perhaps we have more in common than just our quilting.)

Inez age 16

As I admired this hand quilted beauty with it's perfectly spaced quilting, something I assure you I never will aspire to, I realized not only was it hand quilted by it was also hand pieced!  I can only imagine the number of hours put into this quilt.  These were hours away from husband and boys, peaceful hours perhaps with friends or family, hours doing something you enjoyed with people you love.  These too are things Inez and I have in common.

Although, I have not been able to put a name to this pattern, it contains elements of Irish Crosses, Ocean Waves and Tree of Life.  In case you wondered, I know I did, this quilt contains 7,128 triangles or 3,564 hand pieced 1/2 square triangles, just over 3,560 more than I care to ever hand piece.  I have no idea when it was constructed and can only assume that since Inez was born in 1884 is was sometime after that. (and of course before she died.)

This quilt is in remarkably good condition and has only two small tears.  Before being passed down to me it hung in my Aunts farm house for years.  Now that it is down it seems to be saying, "Just let me rest awhile."  And I plan to let it do just that, AFTER a nice relaxing bath, for the quilt not for me.

Despite the fact that I am saddened by the lack of information about this quilt, I am quite happy it has found its way into my home.   I feel grateful that through this beautiful family heirloom I have found a connection to quilting and family I never new existed.  Perhaps with luck, I will be able to pass this quilt down to my daughter someday and continue the legacy of quilting that Inez started.  


The Dog ate my homework?

What an old homework excuse.  If you are like me I am sure you had to wonder what were they thinking when they came up that excuse. Seriously.  I mean who would believe that? Why would a dog want to eat your homework anyway.  It certainly has no appeal to me, but I'm not a dog.

This past winter Emma's teacher had the children make Cotton pod angels.  They were adorable.  Emma was certainly proud of hers and displayed it proudly for just about 36 hours.  That would be just about the time that Ginger decided that Cotton, being a natural fiber was OK to eat.  Complete and utter devastation occurred.  There was just no way to salvage the angel.  According to Emma, Ginger secured herself a position in the "Worst Dog Ever" category.  Now don't judge Ginger to harshly, after all she is a Dog.  A hyper dog, a dog with a small psychotic streak but a dog none-the-less. We contacted her teacher over the Christmas holiday who assured us we would be able to get another angel.

As it happened, yesterday at roughly 5:00p, Mark and Jack were out playing basketball in the driveway.  Ginger was in the backyard, cheering them on.  On the occasion the ball does go over the fence Ginger, traps the ball, then dribbles the ball to a stop and by that time one of the boys has scaled the fence and retrieved the ball.  Ginger it seems has a natural affinity for soccer, which allows the boys to play a number of games with her.

While they played, Emma and I were in the house.  I came upstairs to the computer, a fact I now regret deeply, and Emma took my absence to mean she was free to get up and leave. She did have the good sense to at least take her homework with her.  Sadly, however, that good sense did not extend much further.  Had she actually been doing her homework outside, had she had her homework in her little hand the following scenario would never have happened. (But, what do I know? I'm just the mom.)

 Minutes later the screaming began.  I was jolted out of my seat and raced down the stairs, hearing sobs, screaming, more sobbing, wailing and the occasional foot stomping, (absolute hysteria would be the word that comes to mind).  When I reached the bottom of the steps Emma held up what looked to be scraps of paper, grass, leaves and mud,  "Ginger did this to my homework!"

After taking time to comfort Emma, I began to piece back the paper.  On more than one occasion Mark or Jack would bring in the remnants they found blowing outside.  With much effort and tape we were able to get the sheet, with the exception of 2 small pieces that I assume Ginger actually ingested and that I am not ever going to try to retrieve.  Emma was able to read enough of her paper to get the assignment done, thank goodness, but, to quote her,"There is no way I am taking this to school!"  I was faced with the task of emailing her teacher.

Hmm.  This, to me, seemed like the most unlikely, not to mention embarrassing of circumstances.  I needed to email her teacher, the same teacher I emailed just 4 weeks ago, and explain that yes it's true our dog is hopeless and is still eating Emma's homework.

Dear Mrs. Jones,
This is an email, I never in a million years would have thought I would be writing.   Our dog has once again reeked havoc into Emma's life, and eaten her homework.  I couldn't believe it myself.  This has to be one of the most cliche excuses ever, yet, sadly it's true.  Using our best puzzle solving efforts (not to mention a roll of scotch tape)  we were able to reconstruct most of her History Newspaper.  Much to her relief, she was able to complete the assignment.  Sorry for the sloppy paper, not to mention the dog.
Kristin Hoog

Fortunately, Mrs. Jones has a wonderful sense of humor and replied,

That is hysterical! I will give her mine. Thanks for letting me know!!!!!!!

Mortified.  Completely. Utterly Mortified.  Yes, it is true, some dogs do indeed eat homework. 


Not all Gloom and Doom

The rain has been spitting at me for days.  I really do not appreciate being spit upon.  This has put a big damper on my mood.  There is just something about rainy days that make you want to crawl back into bed.    Sadly I cannot accommodate that desire nearly enough, although I have been know to succumb to it now and again.

I was feeling pretty gloomy when I went out to get the mail yesterday.  It wasn't really "raining"  and it wasn't really "not raining.  I never know if I should take an umbrella in those situations or just brave it.  I was much to tired to even attempt to locate an umbrella.  (Why is it that I am tripping over them when I don't need them, yet when I do I can never find them?)

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened my mail box and found my newest order of Kona Solids had arrived.  Yeah! My mood most certainly improved.  There is just something so exciting about opening a package even when I know what is in it!  The child in me gets so impatient.  I came in and ripped, or tried to rip open the package.  Scissors, as was pointed out to me by an all knowing teenage, are quite handy.

Look at these lovely colors.  How on earth can you stay gloomy when you are faced with creating something out of these.  These are my contributions to the Generation X blog Kona Colors swap.  I planned ahead, (surprise, surprise,) and purchased 12 fat quarters to use with the swap and 12 to keep.  Now I just need an equally cheery quilt pattern to show off these brights!



Last week I dug out a UFO knitting project I had not worked on in over two years.  It was snowy, cold and working with yarn while covered up on the couch drinking coffee seemed like a great idea.  I find that there can be something quite calming about knitting. This week while my kids were yelling, screaming and tearing my house apart in shear boredom, I really needed clam.

 Two years ago I was part of a Harry Potter knitting swap on Ravelry.com.  My swap partner sent me a generous package that included a Harry Potter Book of Knitting Patterns called Charmed Knits.  I poured over the book for days, earmarking the projects I wanted to knit and gathering my materials.  I knit a hat for my son right away in (Gryffindor House Colors of course)  and then set out to make Hermione Hat and Mitten set. (I believe it was at this time that I also came up with the brilliant idea that I would knit hats and mittens for all of my nieces and nephews for Christmas. Always the generous knitter,  I have had the same brilliant idea for the last 3 years.  Sadly, my generosity seriously outweighs my time to knit.)

 Using yarn I had been given in a stash exchange; I knit up the hat and then the Left Mitten.  Only then did I realize that I did not have enough yarn to finish the right mitten.  An all points bulletin was issued to all readers of my blog as I searched for enough yarn to finish the project. Eventually yarn was found, much to my relief. Just as I was about to cast on, we decided to move.

During the packing I set this project aside for knitting on our cross country drive.  I tucked the project along with 2 or 3 others (one never can underestimate how many projects you may need for a 4 day car trip).  Once I completed the sweater project I was working on I pulled out the mitten to cast on.  Only one thing stopped me, I had not packed the book with the instructions. Let me just say, DUH.  So once again that project was tucked away.

After we moved, twice and I finally had all of my things together under one roof, I began searching for my Charmed Knits book.  I couldn't find it anywhere.  I checked with  everyone I knew, surely I had loaned it out to someone.  It couldn't have just vanished. Could it?

After searching and searching I began to think up crazy little scenarios where someone has stolen my Charmed Knits book.  Didn't I see one of the packers look longingly at my stash?  Could one of them have been a kleptomaniac and Harry Potter Fan who happens to steal knitting books from unsuspecting clients?  OK, now I was really reaching, but it could be possible.  I tried to think of other things that could be missing.  I found nothing else. Now I was really stumped. What in the world happened to that book?

Months later I was going through the attic when I stumbled upon an unpacked box.  Weird, I thought we had unpacked everything.  I checked the side of the box for a label.  Sleeping Bags was written in big black letters across the side.  Odd, all of our sleeping bags had been accounted for and used.  Hmm.  I opened the box only to find two baskets full of miscellaneous knitting and sewing material.  Among them I found the Charmed Knits book.  Yea!

This week after being separated from the knitting and the book for 2 years I cast on for my Right Mitten.  I knit away, happy to finally be finishing a project that I thought was doomed to sit amongst the other UFO's indefinitely.  Well, either that or I was going to have to find a cold individual with one hand.  I knit on feeling ever so pleased,  maybe this year I could actually complete the hats and mittens dream.  I imagined all of my niece's and nephew's smiling happy faces as they donned my knitwear and braved the cold Northern winters.  Am I a wonderful aunt or what?

The mitten, knit up quickly.  I had just finished up the thumb and I was admiring my handwork when Emma spoke up.   "Mom, that mitten is HUGE!"  I laid it down on my lap and spread it out lovingly.  It didn't look huge.  It may have to be for one of the adult nieces but I wouldn't say it's HUGE.  It certainly fit me and I told her just that.  She looked at me the way kids do.  You know the look.   The look that says, "Seriously? She is raising me?"  Yeah, that look.  I gave her my own look that said, "I'll show you."  I marched off indignantly to dig up the mate.  I found the mate and promptly marched right back into the room and held it up to it's mate.  IT WAS HUGE!  Okay perhaps an adult XL, but definitely not the same size as it's mate.  Emma gave a little, "I was right" grunt and left wisely without saying a word.

I frogged back the Giant Mitten, gathered up the yarn the needles and THE BOOK.  I marched straight into my studio and plopped the entire project back into the UFO pile. At that point I took up a lovely wool yarn, destine to be an object that does not have a mate.  Now all I have to do is find a cold one handed person.


Snow Days

This week was, and I have to say this with all honesty, HORRENDOUS. Let me explain.  I knew a week ago that this week would be a bit of a challenge.  The kids had  3 1/2 days of school for the week, with 1/2 day Thursday followed by a 4 day weekend.  It was the end of the Semester for Mark, meaning exams and projects to finish up.  Along with that, we had the usual after school activities, a doctors appointment, a broken sax and Mark's 14th Birthday.  Not to worry.  I had a plan.

I figured we would muddle through the school days, homework and appointments as always, squeeze in a saxophone appointment and when Thursday came we would set off on a Family adventure.  Sounds good right? Perhaps I should have been savvy to the fact that the universe does not always cooperate and as I have often told my children, It does not evolve around me.  I am, after all fond of the saying, "Life is not Fair.  Deal with it."

I am not all together sure how they arranged it but somehow my children managed to make me truly regret I ever saying those words.

Saturday I came down with a cold.  Not a bad cold, just a little something to make my head hurt and my body ache.  Nothing I couldn't recover from with a little rest and Vitamin C.  Even if I did have to suffer through Sunday with a cold, John would be here to help.   Monday, I knew I would be able to rest and recover.

Sunday, the city a became a buzz with the news that it was going to snow.  I was not worried.  I grew up in the North and new how to deal with snow, besides if I have learned nothing else from living in the South it is that, "Snow" to a southerner doesn't necessarily have to mean accumulated snow. I knew if we did have any snow at all the kids would have a snow day.  This is a slight change it plans but snow days we can deal with.

It came as no surprise when Monday morning we awoke to find 2 1/2 inches of snow on the ground and school cancelled.  Not only was school cancelled, apparently so was life as we knew it.  Schools of all types were closed, Doctor's offices were closed, stores, malls and even McD's closed early.  (I have a theory, not that it can be proven, that they wanted to insure their employees die of Coronary Artery Disease and not inclement weather.)   Even John's plant halted production.  This was the real deal here in SC.  Monday the kids played in the snow all day, had an incredible time.  They became thoroughly exhausted and crashed, at get this, normal bedtime.  Sadly though, school was cancelled for Tuesday on Monday evening.

Tuesday was slightly less fun.  The ice they had predicted came and went making playing outside far less fun and quite a bit wetter.  Only the youngest two braved the elements and then only for 1 hour.  Mark was content to sit like a sloth and watch continuous episodes of Sports Nation and SpongeBob.  John ventured out to work and called to say that most of the major roads were clear.  My head  cold still lingered, improving only slightly from Monday.  My head hurt just enough that I continued to take cough and cold meds.  In hindsite this may have made my day much happier.  I was unaware, at least I think I was, that I was keeping myself in a slightly doped up state.  Therefore, I was only slightly conscious of the unrest that had begun, and completely oblivious of the whining.  This was only to be the beginning as Tuesday I was blind sided by the phone call that cancelled school for Wednesday.

Wednesday the majority of the Stores and offices, not government offices however, were open.  I had had enough of hanging out inside and decided we all needed to get out.  Deciding to get out and actually doing so can be completely different things.  After digging out the truck from 4 inches of ice and snow and spending the morning trying to convince the kids that no they could not go out in their p.j's  we ventured to McD's.  Endangering my coronary vessels seemed like less of a risk then staying in the house with my kids.  The kids were happy to be free from, Healthy Foods, and with not a vegetable in site their moods increased tremendously.  This increase in mood sadly only lasted until we returned home.  At that point the fighting resumed full force causing an increase in the volume of the TV, the whining increased and the twitch in my eye returned with it's friend the migraine.  Certainly they would have school tomorrow.

Thursday I was baffled, shocked and down right pissed off that school was indeed cancelled again. I tried to remain calm.  No matter how much I wanted to scream and shout, "That's not fair! What about ME?  Don't Mom's count?"   I didn't.  Instead we ventured out once again.  This time to look for Mark's Birthday Present, a driveway basketball hoop.  Surely this could be fun.  The fighting progressed from the house to the car.  I was forced to separated Jack and Emma at all times.  It appeared that they could no longer stand the site of one another.  Punishments were handed out like candy, and tears were shed, most of them mine.  I even resorted to forcing everyone to watch only Little House on the Prairie episodes.  ( I was under the delusion that this show would help teach them that their life was not as bad as they thought.)  Apparently I was wrong.  Life was truly that bad.

Thursday night I had nightmares all night and awoke on Friday morning to the Sponge Bob theme song playing in my head. My migraine was back and I was in no mood to be called, "mom"  It was at this point I decided that not only was life NOT FAIR but someone, somewhere had a serious vendetta against me. In a moment of insanity, I decided to take my kids bowling.  I can only think that my lack of sleep had definitely effected my decision making skills.  We took along one of Mark's friends, so that he would not be entirely embarrassed to be seen with us.  The kids bowled 2 games and had a blast.  After bowling Emma's friend called and we picked her up on our way home.  The kids played and entertained one another for the rest of the evening.  I was left to knit and watch, believe it or not, anything I wanted!  GASP.  The fighting was minimal, as was the whining.

I tucked the kids into bed last night grateful that I had survived yet another day off.  I was shocked and amazed when Emma said to me, "This was the Best Week Ever!"  I can only hope it was a once in a lifetime thing.

Only 3 more days until school.


Winter Weather

You may recall that I introduced you to my January Wreath the other day.  Well, it is bound, quilted and hung on the front door.  Just in time for this massive snowy weather to hit South Carolina!  See the little white flecks of snow that are falling even as I took this picture.  I believe I said it looked like a "Snow Day!"  Little did I know when I made that jest that it would indeed prove true.  The winter weather gods must have been listening and decided it was just what was needed to accompany my quilt block.

 I have to say my kids are more than a little pleased.  They have been in and out of the snow since 7:30 this morning.  The snow may not last long but they are going to enjoy every single moment while it is here.  The snow has already started turning into freezing rain.  As I sit here and type this, I can watch the layers of ice building up on the tree outside my window.  All of this winter mix has been completely debilitating to the state of SC, everything is shut down and the grocery stores have been emptied.

We are warm and the pantry is fully stocked.  A new pot of coffee has been brewed.

 The perfect time for cuddling up on the couch, watching some old movies and doing some knitting.



I want to take a moment and share this great gift from my sister.
High Strung by: Conni Togel
This cute little 5 X 7 print was a gift from my sister.  You may have seen the artist, Conni Togel featured in various knitting/crafting magazine. The amazing thing was that I had just been looking at these cute prints online and wishing that I could purchase one!  There are so many cute pictures it is almost impossible to choose.  Ms. Togel does an amazing job at making lovable sheep and knitting fun and playful.  Check out her website at www.charisma-art.com.  I know you will find them just as endearing as I do.  My only quandary is did my sister get me this print, again entitled High Strung, because she knows I love all things knitting; or did she get me this print because I may, on occasion, exhibit certain negative personality traits?

January Wreath (Almost)

I new in November what I wanted  to do for the January wreath. It is now January 8th and the wreath is still sitting on my work table waiting to be finished. Now that the tree is down and the kids are back at school I may actually have it up by February.  I still have some quilting to add and the binding before I can hang it outside.

Something about January always makes me think of Snow. Doesn't it just scream SNOW DAY!  Living in the South now after growing up in the North, snow is the one thing about winter we don't see, much.  Not that I am complaining but, my kids do.  Apart from seeing family and friends we have not seen in months, snow is their favorite reason for driving north.  I'll admit appliqueing snowflakes onto this mini-quilt while my kids played outside in 55 degree temperatures, without jackets, was a bit weird, but I got over it.  (No snow pants, boots, hats, mittens, scarves or wet slush covering my floor.  OH YEAH.  I am so over it.)

This block is actually a combination of two patterns.  The first is the Snow Flake Wall Hanging from Allpeoplequilt.com.  The second is from Quiltmaker Nov/Dec '08 called Hats & Mittens.  And yes the hat and mitten are paper pieced.  I really am very pleased at how well the two went together.  They have been calling out to me to make them into a pillow, so far I've done a really good job of ignoring them.



I find quilting unlike most art forms.  That is to say it is very basic in the "necessities" needed to quilt. Quilting in it's most basic form requires fabric, thread and a needle.  You don't have to have a fancy sewing machine to crank out beautiful quilts.  For years and years all quilting was done by hand, a simple running stitch used to hold scraps of material together.

The more I quilt for others the more I am aware of this one fact even idiots can quilt.  Somehow quilting is seen as an "easy" project.  I can't tell you the number of people I have run into over the years who tell me things like, "I want to make a king size quilt for my bed.  I have never quilted before but I don't think it will be that difficult."  What a great idea!  While you are at it why don't you lay an egg.  Chickens do it and it doesn't look that difficult.

The fact is that it isn't "that" difficult but it does require basic knowledge of fabrics and what you can and cannot use.  And that is what I thought when I picked up a client's quilt top in late December.

The top I picked up was beautifully done in Oriental Silks and Drapery Fabric.  I was so awed by the design that it didn't dawn on me until I got home that I might not be able to quilt it.  A thousand doubts rushed through my mind. Could I quilt it without running the silk or poking large holes in the quilt top?  What if the loose threads get pulled down into my long-arm machine and create a hole in the backing?  Will my machine even quilt though all of those thick layers of drapery fabric?   And how in the world do you keep this drapery fabric from fraying?! Basically I was afraid to start this project.  OK, not afraid but Terrified.  I was so worried that I became doubtful of all that I know about quilting.

"Quilt" is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as A coverlet or blanket made of two layers of fabric with a layer of cotton, wool, feathers, or down in between, all stitched firmly together, usually in a decorative crisscross design.

A quilt for many is just that, a bed covering.  For others it is for babies and small children to be carried in, covered with and play on.  Still for others quilting is not just a blanket it is ART.  That's when it dawned on me, quilting is much more than the definition leads us to believe.  Quilting is experimenting, learning, researching, exploring and challenging what we thought was the right way to do things.  Did you know that the word quilt is thought to have derived from the Middle English word quilte which means mattress.  So how did we get from mattress to bed covering?  I believe by trying, creating, and doing. 

 Sometimes our new and brilliant plan doesn't work out.  Yet, once in a while it does, and quite happily it did in this case.  Instead of worrying and fretting over the "what ifs" I experimented, changed needles,  changed threads, slowed down and clipped a ton of frayed edges and it worked. Was I still afraid?  YOU BET!  But, I didn't let it stop me.  How apropos that my New Year should start out with a challenge that forces me to grow, develop and learn.