Sunday, May 29, 2011

School's Out,... Almost!

  Ah, the last few days of school are upon us! Our seniors graduate today and it's pouring down rain right now. So much for an outdoor ceremony. Now they'll be crowded into the gym with limited seating. Maybe by the time graduation is over the sun will come out in time for the dozens of parties around town. With a class of 167, there are lots of parties and they started last weekend. My husband and I went to one last night for a wonderful young man, Archie Keomanivong. We got in the car and Randy asked, "Do you know where we're going?" I said, "Yes, I have the invitation right here!" I read it out loud and Randy said, "Becky! That's the street behind us! We can walk." Who knew? I've lived 4 houses away from this kid for 14 years and didn't know it! We laughed all evening over that one. I teased Archie that he could have been giving me a ride to school. Archie is one of my library regulars and I'll dearly miss him next year. He will be studying Culinary Arts with plans to open his own restaurant after college.

  The kids aren't the only ones excited about the end of school on June 7th. The staff are counting the days too. As much as I enjoy the kids, I do have a life beyond the library! I look forward to working in my flower garden and long days of quilting. Weeks of not having to squeeze in some sewing or quilting after school and before my second job, then after getting home and bedtime. I can sew from sun up to sundown and later if I want. Yippee! Who says summer is for kids? If that's true, then I'm the biggest kid around.

  I've started sewing blocks for the first quilt for the Love and Valor book. I have 54 blocks completed, but can't show them here for privacy issues. I have 3 other quilts designed and named for the book so far. It's an exciting venture and a little scary too.

  Last week my friend, Kay, invited me to go to Spring Green, Wisconsin with her for a one day road trip, 4 hours each way. Her son in law was opening a new book store and she wanted to surprise him and be here for the first day of business. She has told me many times what a great little town it is and it has a fantastic quilt shop, Country Sampler. I'm always game for an impromptu trip, so off we went! She hadn't exaggerated one bit.  The population is 1440, but the town has a lot of neat little shops and points of interest. The new book store is a wonderful addition to a charming downtown district. Country Sampler earned a top ten quilt shop rating in BH&G"s Quilt Sampler magazine a few years ago and for good reason. It is located in a lovely old building and packed with fabric, notions, patterns, books, gifts and beautiful samples. They had a large selection of Civil War reproductions and other beautiful fabrics in soft muted tones. I wish I had remembered to take a camera with me, because everywhere you looked there was something "picture worthy" to see. I spent a couple blissful hours there shopping. We ate lunch at the General Store. That was a neat experience too. They have a menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, and delicious desserts in the cafe area and you can buy toys, gifts, cards, and boutique type ladies clothing in the store area. Kay's daughter is the Director of Communications for the American Players Theatre in Spring Green, so we had to pay a visit there before heading home. It is an incredible facility. I got a private tour of the costume department and observed the teams of designers and seamstresses working on costumes for the next production. I could not believe the costume storage room. It had hundreds of costumes hanging on long racks in a huge room. They do lots of Shakespeare so most of them were period costumes, some even "my era" the Civil War years. I would have loved to have my pick of them! One room was the millinery,  but the milliner was out. Oh, the bonnets! They were to die for. If I were a thief, one of those bonnets would have walked out of there with me for sure. Again, if I'd had a camera, the costume workshop would have made for some really neat pictures. They had enough fabric and notions for a quilt shop. We had a great time and packed a lot in for a 13 hour trip. One of these days I'll buy a mini camera and keep it in my purse so I'm always prepared.

  I bought a George Washington toile at Country Sampler and just had to make something of it this week. I fussy cut the portraits to use as alternate blocks and made some 9-patches from blue and gray fabrics. This is the center for what will be a medallion style quilt. This one is just for fun and for me. I wish the fabric had featured Abraham Lincoln instead, but GW is good too. Sorry, the photo is a little out of focus.

   I got "Cozy Cottages" back from the machine quilter, LaDonna Cole, on Friday. I usually hand-quilt, but this was foundation-pieced and too thick to hand-quilt nicely. As soon as I bind it, it will ship to my niece, Michele, in California. For once, I remembered to take a picture before I give a quilt away!
   I don't think you can see the 7 blocks with houses in them in this picture. It's pretty busy. In the center of the 4th row from the top is a block with a white church resembling the church my grandparents belonged to and my Mother still attends. The stained glass windows are made from bits of Grandma Lillard's dress. This would be my niece's great grandmother and her daughter's great great grandmother. Every small town needs a church and they are usually in the center of town, so "Cozy Cottages" needed one too. Grandma's dress gives it history.

  I'm off to another graduation party. Keep stitching!


Monday, May 9, 2011

Blocks Galore!

   When I spoke at the Linda Showman Benefit at Inspirations April 30th, a lovely lady gave me a large Ziploc tote of goodies. I've misplaced her card so I can't name her here. If she reads this, "Thank you again!" The tote was full of vintage 30's-40's fabrics and lots of quilt blocks to add to my collection of antique blocks. I'm showing pictures of a few. Some were too large to scan on my scanner. There were whole sets of some of the patterns, like Dresden Plate in varied designs and sizes, Double Wedding Ring, and Ohio Star. She said she needs to thin out her sewing room. I'm a very lucky lady to be the recipient of such treasure.

                                             One of the wedges for a Double Wedding Ring.

This is the smallest size of the multiple sets of Dresden Plate blocks, 9". Some were.for 15" blocks.

These cute little "4-Patches" are 3 3/4" square. There was a whole bag full of pieces to make more of these.

This tree block was a single, but I love it! There is more background fabric beyond the tree that wouldn't fit on my scanner. It's a 12" block and amazingly, each piece is appliqued! I've never seen this pattern appliqued.

This little cutey is another single block and my favorite! It's also the oldest, easily 1860's. It's a new pattern to me. Anyone recognize it?

 This is a 4" paper-pieced block I made. It's called "Granny's Fancy Basket Handle". Sharon Meadowcroft shared this pattern with me along with another 4" paper-pieced basket that I haven't made yet. I'm going to make 3 of each in pinks and browns for a doll quilt.

  That's all for now. Keep stitching!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

On the Road Again!

   I gave my Civil War presentation at the Dover Museum in New London today to a packed house. After doing one yesterday in Hills, I'm bone tired. Packing everything into totes and loading my car to the brim, then unloading the car, setting my display up (on the 2nd floor) at Inspirations, packing it back up and down the stairs to load my car, then unloading today at the Dover Museum, setting up, packing up again, unloading at home and putting everything away and spending hours in full Civil War attire is more work than working my day job! I really need to not book myself 2 days in a row again, ever. Besides the fatigue, I really love doing it though.  This is the first time I've had reporters from multiple newspapers there to interview me  and, boy, that was unnerving, especially when one came back and interviewed me before I presented. Talk about pressure to perform well! One of his questions was, "Why would someone want to attend one of your presentations? What can they expect to gain from the experience?" Say whaaat?!!! I'm almost afraid to read the Burlington Hawkeye tomorrow. He did stay for the whole show so I guess he found something of interest in it. My audiences usually consist of all or mostly all women. This one had about 1/3 men in attendance. They actually asked more questions at the conclusion than the women did. I had to watch my "p's and q's", because I usually do a little male bashing in my stories, but I gave them advance warning. I asked if any of the men were thin-skinned or sensitive types and no one raised their hand. None of them booed or heckled me either so I guess they were all self assured men who can take a little abuse. I didn't even get one dirty look from them. Now that's what I call success, unless they were hard of hearing or maybe dozed off during most of it.

   I was planning on sewing some blocks tonight when I got home, but I can't get up the ambition to do anything more than sit here at my computer. Bedtime is sounding pretty good to me about now.

   I'll just share a few Civil War bits with you first. The end of April, 1861 saw Virginia  secede from the Union and US and Confederate troops clashed in Maryland. On the 20th, Robert E. Lee resigned from the US Army and was named commander of the Virginia state troops. Units from New York arrived in Washington, D.C. Richmond, Virgina became the capital of the Confederate States while Maryland voted against secession.

   Men from all walks of life began enlisting to fight for the Union. Men like this humble farmer...

And this businessman...

And even  professors...

Leaving behind sweathearts and mothers...

Many children would never see their fathers again...

April, 1861 to April, 1865 would see our country fighting a war that would cost the lives of over 600,000 of our brothers, sons, husbands, and fathers. After all that loss, we'd suffer the loss of our 16th president to an assassin's bullet. Our country would eventually heal, but it would take a long, long time.

Keep stitching.