Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'm So Excited!

   This has been a very hectic week and I've not had time to blog...sorry! I decided I had to make time, because I'm still busy and need to live with it. I've had some exciting news I've been "sitting on." By a chance meeting with a nice lady at my presentation in Altoona, great good luck has fallen on me. This lady,Pat, said she had family ties to Mt. Pleasant and asked if I knew of the book, Love and Valor, by Charles F. Larimer. I said, "Oh, I love that book! I've wanted to design a new quilt pattern based on it and call it Love and Valor, but knew I needed to obtain permission from the author to do that. She said," Well, he's my cousin! I'll get you his address and send it to you." I was thrilled. I kept an eye on my mail each day thinking she'd be sending me a note. Good Friday, we had no school so I was home. When I got up and checked my emails, I was astonished to see one from Charles F. Larimer himself! Pat had spoken to him about my presentation and my wish of designing a quilt pattern based on his book. He said YES!!! I couldn't believe my good fortune. We emailed back and forth for the next couple of days and now, not only will there be a pattern, BUT he is also interested in our collaboration on a companion quilt book to the original Love and Valor. My feet have barely touched the ground all week. I've been rereading his book which is a compilation of the Civil War letters that were written between Capt. Jacob and Emeline Ritner, who were Mt. Pleasant, Iowa residents. There are also other family letters in the book. I will select letters that inspire me of quilt patterns and design quilts based on them. Charles has said he may have pictures of family quilts as well. That would be even better. I could  reproduce patterns of those family quilts too. It would take a long time before any book would be published, but all the work and research involved would be worth it. I feel blessed to even be given this opportunity.
   This is the cover of the book, Love and Valor. I recommend it to all who are interested in the Civil War or for those who enjoy reading others' diaries or letters. It's a very enjoyable and enlightening read.

   I'm getting ready to go to Inspirations, in Hills, Ia, where I'm giving my Civil War presentation at a benefit for the family of a quilter who recently lost her battle with cancer. She knew about the benefit before her death and was happy to hear that the presentation would be given by a para librarian, as she had been a librarian in the Cedar Rapids area schools for 35 years. My heart goes out to the family at this loss. I've been told that her daughter is here from Alaska and will attend the benefit today. I look forward to meeting her.
   My car is packed and I'm ready to go! Keep stitching.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Home again, home again!

  After a wonderful 3 days in Altoona,IA,  I made it home safe and sound. I taught a class on Sunday to a lively group of ladies. Some of them had never paper-pieced before. Everyone did a great job on their blocks. Two ladies opted to make the large size quilt rather than the paper-pieced mini. It took all of about 15 minutes to feel like I'd known them forever. What a lot of fun they were.

                I don't think they even noticed I took their picture, they were so intent on their blocks.

 Here they are hard at work sewing their blocks. I promised not to name names if I wanted to include them in my blog so they shall remain anonymous.

                              She was the first one to finish a block. Her nickname is Over-Achiever!

                                                Another happy quilter with her Featherweight.

                                                                 My shy German friend.

                                                                 This wasn't so tough!

This brave lady was struggling with the pain of carpal tunnel in both wrists. Here she finally took the braces off.

                                                       She made hers out of Christmas fabrics.

                                            She opted for the full-size quilt and got it all cut out!

   I stayed in the lovely country home of Sharon and Chip Meadowcroft. After a long day of driving, then teaching, she fed me a delicious meal of chicken noodles, mashed potatoes, and green beans, YUM! It was followed by apple pie. How did she know that I love chicken and noodles?
  After supper she treated me to a private quilt show of her work. Sharon is one talented lady! Her applique is beautiful. She makes crazy quilts that rival those from the 19th century, seriously. They are covered with ornate embroidery and embellished with odd bits of jewelry, beads, buttons, and momentos. I've never seen anything like it except in pictures of antique crazy quilts. I started out taking pictures of them, then there were so many and I became so enthralled by them, I forgot to take any more pictures. What a treat that was to see her quilts and hear her stories about them.

                                                       One of her small applique quilts.

  On Monday Sharon gave me a tour of the local quilt shops. We visited the Quilter's Cupboard in Ankeny first. They recently changed management and relocated. What a wonderful shop in a blue house. It has room after room of fabric, books, patterns, and notions. Of course, I found some goodies I had to have. Our next stop was Creekside Quilting in Clive. I've been there before, but it never fails to impress. Yes, I bought more goodies. I scored big at the Hancocks Fabrics  in Altoona. They had the quart size bottles of Mary Ellen's Best Press on sale for $7.19 a bottle! I had been rationing my half bottle at home, so I purchased 3 and now I wish I had bought 4! I haven't been to a Hancocks since the last time I was in Paducah, KY several years ago. We won't discuss how much I spent that day, but when I got home and emptied the bags, I had a stack of new fabrics nearly 2 feet tall. Yikes!
  I love historical quilt books and found 2 new ones that wanted to come home with me. Naturally, I obliged them.
This new one by Sarah Maxwell and Dolores Smith is a good mix of history and patterns for quilt blocks. I have always hated orange, but cheddar is growing on me. In this quilt, it works!

Author Betsy Chutchian loaded this book with beautiful vintage photos, history, quilts, and diary excerpts. It's a winning combination.
  I've spent hours thumbing through both books every night since getting home. Now I'll spend hours reading them cover to cover and choosing which blocks I'll make first. It's fun to travel, but also fun to be home and have fun with my new goodies! I think they're calling me now....gotta go!
  Oops, I forgot to mention I gave my Civil War presentation  to the South East Polk Quilt Guild on Monday night with about 75 members present. They were a very warm and enthusiastic group to entertain. If you live in the Altoona area and are looking for a guild to join, I'd highly recommend giving the SEPQG a try! I hated to leave them, but we plan on joining up at the Des Moines Quilt Expo in the fall.

Keep stitching,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The war begins!

   Unless you live under a rock, you already know that 150 years ago this week the Civil War began. On April 12, Fort Sumter was under siege by Confederate troops. It was surrendered on the 14th and President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to defend and protect the Union. The line was drawn and citizens had to choose which side to support. In some cases families were split in their loyalties, brother against brother. A patriotic frenzy ensued and men were eager to sign up for what they all thought would be a  quick fight. Each side was sure of their impending victory over the other. None seemed to fathom the harsh reality of what was about to engulf the nation. They would have scarcely believed it would be 4 years before peace would prevail again. And no one could imagine the over 600,000 lives it would cost to acquire that peace.

  This photograph taken in Plymouth, Indiana is of John Shaile and his wife (unidentified). It could have been taken before he enlisted or a happier time when war was unthought of. I don't know if he fought or survived the war, but tens of thousands of men like him did fight and did die for their cause. 

  I've been watching a lot of special programs on TV the past few weeks about the Civil War. National Geographic, PBS, and the History Channel all have aired some really good programs. I'm sure over the next 4 years we'll have lots of opportunities to learn more about this sad episode in our country's history. I hope we never have to repeat that mistake.

  I'm traveling to Altoona, Iowa this weekend to teach a class Sunday afternoon, on my pattern, Reap the Whirlwind. Monday night I will be speaking to Altoona Quilt Guild. I've been busy folding and packaging 300+ patterns for my inventory. I'm gearing up for my"busy" season of scheduled classes and speaking engagements. Summer months when I'm off work, it's the only time I can schedule any day of the week to teach or speak. The dates fill up fast and I have to watch that I don't book engagements back to back. I've made that mistake before and it's really hard to pack up, go, come home one day and repeat it again the next in another town. I swore I wouldn't do that again and guess what, I am doing it again April 30th and May 1st! That will be especially tough, because I will have to be at school on Monday. Fortunately, even though there are 650 high school students in our building, they won't all come to the library that day!

  I'm staying in the home of the Altoona Guild president, Sharon Meadowcroft, Sunday and Monday night. She is taking me shop hopping in the area  Monday. I hope to have some good reports on those quilt shops for you in my next blog. I can already feel my wallet getting skinnier! I wonder what goodies I'll find.

Keep stitching!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring at Last!

   OK, I'm a believer now. Spring is indeed here. My King Alfred daffodils in my back garden were blooming this weekend.

My purple Jackmani Clematis that grows over my arbor and up into the Magnolia tree is still in hibernation. The daffodils seem to be shouting, "Wake up!"

   It was 70d on Sunday and I enjoyed working in my front garden. It is filled with a 100 + hosta varieties and wildflowers I've imported over the last 13 years we've lived in Iowa. The Blood Root is in bloom and the hostas are peaking through the soil too. I love spring and the rebirth of all living things in my garden. Gardening is my other passion when I'm not quilting.
   April Fool's Day we celebrated my Mom's 88th birthday with pizza, ice cream, and cake. She loved her quilt top and was only slightly disappointed that she had to give it back to be quilted. It looked lovely on her bed temporarily. I forgot my camera and didn't get a picture of her or her quilt. :-(  In honor of my Mom and all mothers, I'm sharing some pictures of elderly mothers from the Civil War Era.

   This first unknown lady is a Southern mother. I hope she was happier than she looks in the photo! 
The next unidentified lady is from Salem, New York. She is dressed in full mourning attire. The dress is silk and indicates she was a  woman of means. Had she lost her husband in old age or perhaps a beloved son fighting in the war?

             This last lady is dressed richly as well, but not in mourning. I love the brooch at her neck. Her identity is unknown, but she was from Granville, New York.

    On April 4, 1861, the Virginia state convention rejected secession by a vote of 89 to 45. With the growing hostilities, on April 6, President Lincoln notifies South Carolina that he will be ordering the resupplying of Ft. Sumter and 2 days later, Secretary of State Seward declares the Union will defend its installations if attacked. A feeling of foreboding permeates the entire nation. The country is on the brink of war with itself.

    Happy Spring to you all! Keep stitching.