Friday, July 29, 2011

Unexpected Visitor!

   I've told you my husband, Randy, is an avid bicyclist. Well, he is as avid on anything bike related as I am quilting. Wednesday evening Randy was riding with Bike Burlington (he's the president) on a dinner ride to West Point for chicken. I never have to cook on Wednesday nights until the snow flies and I know he won't be home till around 10 PM so I can sew all evening uninterrupted and look forward to it. About 6:30 PM I get a phone call from Randy and I can tell by his breathing and wind noise that he's riding. He doesn't like to talk on the phone when he's riding so I was surprised. He said, "Hey, what are you doing tonight?" I said, "Well, I'm quilting of course, why?!" He went on to tell me he just met a biker while riding outside of Burlington who was riding from New York to California and had everything strapped to his bike for the trip. " How would you feel about driving towards Burlington to find him and ask him if he wants to spend the night at our house? I'll ride to West Point and be home by 10 PM. Otherwise the poor guy camps out somewhere." Obviously he wanted me to feel sorry for the guy and take him in! We have done this twice before and once was a nightmare scenario and once was a wonderful experience. Randy doesn't ask a lot of me so I said, "Ok, I'll see if I can find him, but I'm only going as far as New London (8 miles). If I don't see him I'm coming home to sew. I drove to New London without seeing him and was on the way home thinking I'd dodged the bullet. Not so fast...2 miles out guess who I saw coming off a side road onto the interstate? Yep, my evening was gone. I pulled over and flagged him down and said, "You know that bicyclist you talked to outside Burlington? That was my husband and he sent me to invite you to our house." He took me up on it and said he'd be there in about 20 minutes. I sped home, but called my friend, Kayla, and asked her if she would come babysit me for the evening explaining what was happening.  Being the great friend she is, she said ,"Ok, is a half hour from now soon enough?" The plan was for her to show up casually for an evening of quilting as if it had nothing to do with this stranger in the house. She arrived before he did which was great. He ended up being a nice guy, 25 yrs. old and a vet (as in Marine) who had had a lung removed just before he was scheduled to go to Afghanistan and received a medical discharge instead. After recovering he decided to build his own bike and see the country while he's still young and carefree. I fed him a big plate of leftover pasta with meatballs and you'd have thought it was a feast. He was so grateful. I offered to do his laundry and he was really excited, since he'd been hand-washing what few articles of clothing he had ever since leaving New York. Then he took a lonnnng hot shower...a real luxury for him. The rest of the evening he was content to watch the weather channel on TV while Kayla and I quilted. Randy got home at 10PM so Kayla was relieved of duty and the guys  spent the next couple hours talking bicycle lingo. The biker's name is Rex Hazard and he's on Facebook. If you're located between Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and California via Nebraska, Colorado, and Nevada and you see a young guy on a very tall bike that looks really dangerous to ride, you might take him in for the night or offer him a couple of dollars...he's a good guy. He did offer to do yard work or any chores to pay us for our hospitality, but we declined. It's not a good deed if you expect to be rewarded, right?

           Here are pictures of Rex and his homemade bike. Have you ever seen anything like it?!
            It's over 5 feet to the seat and he's 6'3" so think how tall he is when seated! It scared me just watching him get on it.

     The bike weighs 100 pounds fully loaded with his gear. Randy's bike weighs 20 pounds by comparison and he says Rex would be working very hard riding his even on flat land.

   Oh, to be young and foolish, huh? I was young like that, but I still wouldn't attempt that bike trip even then! I have the house to myself again and I'm back to sewing Bear Tracks, but it was an interesting few hours.

Keep stitching,

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I'm Done!!!

  I finally came up for air today and stepped out of my sewing room a few times. I finished Emeline's Garden Baskets yesterday! Those #%*+$! basket handles almost got the best of me, but I persevered and hand-appliqued every stinking one of them myself. I didn't enjoy it though and I wasn't suddenly transformed into an applique artist either. I won't be giving any of you steep competition anytime soon so you don't have to worry about that.

   I started sewing the blocks for Bear Tracks together today. My quilting elves did a good job on them and I only had to make pieced alternate blocks to go with them for my design. I got out my graph paper and doodled and now I've decided to add a pieced border to the quilt. Maybe someone should hide my graph paper from me for awhile.
   I've had two fittings for my new Civil War dress. Val Gulseth is doing a beautiful job on it. She has been patient with me as I make changes to the original design. She assures me it will be done in time to take to Maine to wear for my scheduled presentations. I'm making a new hat to wear with it if I can find the time to finish it. I'm getting excited about this trip. It's the only time my sister, Sandra, and I get together each year and there is never a dull moment from the time we arrive at Melissa's house. She wants to go to Dorr Woolen Mill in New Hampshire one day to buy wool for her rug hooking. I absolutely have to go to the Busy Thimble Quilt Shop in Litchfield again this year. It is the best shop for 1800's repros I've ever seen. We always do an all day antiqueing expedition and we both love to drive around the small New England towns and just look at the 300+ year old houses and walk through old cemeteries searching for Civil War graves. My nephew, James, is a landscape architect and has planned garden tours and a visit to the botanical garden for us. That is only a sample of the planned events for this trip. If I can remember to use my camera and not just carry it, I should have pictures to share in future posts.

  Sorry I can't show pictures of the Love &Valor quilts, but they are off limits till the book is published. It kills me to be spending nearly every waking minute sewing and I can't share them! :(  Speaking of waking minutes...I'm awake and I should be sewing!

 Keep stitching,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Heatwave Hardships

   I'm happy to tell you I've had a complete recovery from Quiltus Interruptus and I'm sewing every day to meet my goal. I'm currently working on Emeline's Garden Baskets which has been a challenge. The baskets have an applique' handle and I'm not fond of doing applique' (very similar to my aversion to binding a quilt.) I love the look of applique' and love to see others' applique' projects and even love to own applique' quilts. I just don't enjoy doing applique'. So, I find myself clenching my teeth while working on those handles and thankful that I didn't design the pattern with the baskets full of garden produce! Now, if you buy the book and make your own quilt and want to fill your baskets with veggies appliqued in place, more power to you! My special talent has always been in the hand-quilting. I love it, but I do envy those of you who have the knack for applique'.

  I was a biking widow over the weekend. Randy participates in the RAIN Ride every year. RAIN stands for ride across in on a bicycle, riding across the entire state, in ONE day. Yes, he's crazy like that. This year's route was 175 miles from east to west. The heat index was well over 100 degrees and it took him just over 9 hours. I couldn't ride my bike from here to Burlington in 9 hours! Actually, I wouldn't even try.  I know my strengths and they don't include biking. I planned a glorious single gal weekend of sewing and nothing else. Except for Breakfast Club at Inspirations Saturday morning and church Sunday morning, I didn't come out of my sewing room. Aaaah. My idea of Heaven.

I don't have a picture of him on the RAIN Ride, but this is Randy on last year's RAGBRAI. Don't let the scowl fool you, he's having a blast.

When he's not riding his bike, he enjoys working on them for others. Too bad he can't repair sewing machines.

   Do you live in a state that is suffering this heat wave? After enjoying my sewathon weekend, I thought I'd get up early and mow the yard before the extreme heat set in yesterday. I was mowing by 7:30 AM. Because almost my entire yard is an English-style  flower garden with my house in the middle, I don't have much grass. I was done by 8 AM. I fed my koi and decided I should pull the pump and filter from the pond and clean them. It is a messy job which includes using the garden hose in pressure cleaning mode and I get splattered with pond gunk. By the time I was finished and had the pump and filter back in the pond, talked a little baby talk to my fish (yes, I do) and put the garden hose and mower away, it was 9:30 AM. I was dirty and my clothes were sticking to me with sweat. I came inside, peeled out of those sticky clothes, stepped into the shower, and turned on the water....NO WATER!!! I hadn't heard that the city was going to shut off the water to our neighborhood from 9 AM to 5PM on Monday! OMG, what was I going to do? Have you ever sponge bathed with wetwipes? Well, it's not fun or very efficient. And my sweat-soaked hair, there was nothing I could do. After my hair evaporated in my AC (Thank God for air conditioning) I went to McDonald's for coffee, since I couldn't even draw water for a cup of tea. I was itchy all day and praying that nobody made a surprise visit. My sister called and I told her the story. Of course, I got the expected and well-deserved sympathy I needed to placate me. Then, later I got a phone call from my dear sweet Mother. After the usual "Hello." she said, "Well, Becky, is it stinky at your house? " She had talked to my sister. Mom may be 88 years old, but she still has a wicked sense of humor, lucky me!

   Today, I'm having a much better day. I'm happily entrenched in my sewing room away from the scorching heat and expecting the only stress I'll have today is those darn applique handles. Arrrgh.

Keep stitching,

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Quiltus Interruptus

  I've been suffering all week from a horrible malady. Maybe you've never heard of it and I hope you've never had it. It's called quiltus interruptus. It's only victims, oddly enough, seem to be quilters. The only known cure is uninterrupted long hours of quilting. I believe I posted early in the week that I would be finishing Love and Valor within a day of that post. Oh, no. Not that day or the next or the next or even the one after that. Every time I thought I would have my day planned to work on L&V and only that, something would come up that I had to do instead. Grrrr. I'd make plans for the next day and the same thing would happen. GRRRR! By today, I was ready to make war with anyone or anything that stood in my way!  After church, ( God and I are on peaceful terms), I made dinner fast, begged off going to my husband's family reunion, (I know I'm bad), and retreated to my sewing room determined to not come out until the quilt was done. My son was home and had skipped the reunion too, but he was happy watching the Cubs game alone and reading a book. He's always been easy to please, probably because he was born to a quiltaholic and was used to fending for himself. (yeah, I'm really bad.) Anyway, I'm well on the way to a full cure! Love and Valor is finished, pressed, and neatly folded, waiting to be sent to the quilter. Ahhhh, what a relief. I hope I don't suffer a relapse, because I have big plans for tomorrow. I'm starting the next quilt for the L&V book. Yeah, I never learn....

Keep stitching,

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Busy Me!

  I haven't posted for a few days, sorry. I've been working overtime on quilts for the Love and Valor book. I "farmed out" the pieced blocks for the "Ritner Family Album" quilt top to a couple of good friends who want to help get this book done sooner rather than later. I did say, GOOD FRIENDS, right?! I'm currently piecing the Love and Valor quilt. I plan to finish it late tonight. I've designed a total of 11 patterns for the book so far. I woke up with one in my head this morning. Up I got and to my graph paper and colored pencils! It will be "Emeline's Garden Basket". Emeline was proud of the big garden she planted in Jacob's absence.
  On July 8,1861, Jacob grabbed an opportunity to write a letter to Emeline. He said they were camped at Grand River, Missouri and about to cross the river. He complained that he hadn't received a letter from Emeline although many other men had gotten mail from home (Mt. Pleasant,IA). He had been sick with diarrhea for 4 days, but was feeling better. He promised to be home as soon as his time was up, but willing to do his duty. Like most of the nation, Jacob obviously thought the war would be a very short affair. He told Emeline, " I want you  to have me a nice white shirt and good dinner ready when I get home." Little did he know or would have guessed, it would be 4 years before he returned home.

  Here is a picture of what is believed to be Jacob Ritner in later years. He was never in good health following the Civil War. He died Jan.12, 1873. Note the tied comforter he has on his lap.

My Bernina is calling me! I must obey... :)  Keep stitching!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Meeting the Family!

  Sorry for keeping you waiting for my story. Our internet was down till late in the day yesterday and then we had to attend a fish fry out of town. I planned to post when we got home. Guess what, at 9 o'clock driving home we hit a deer just outside of Burlington. No airbags deployed, no one hurt except for the very dead deer. We had to wait for a tow truck, ride in the tow truck ( my first time by the way) back to Burlington, unload everything out of my husband's crippled demo, and find something else on the dealership 's lot we could drive home. He grabbed the keys to one of his parts department delivery trucks and off we went. I didn't feel much like blogging at 11:30 PM, sorry.

   The get together with the Staffinger descendants in the Robert Johnson home Friday evening was fabulous. They live way out in the country and of course, I got lost, and had to call them to redirect me! I arrived soon after as I wasn't that far off the beaten path. I joked when I walked in ," Don't worry, I'm not moving in, despite what it may look like!" I was loaded, carrying 2 big totes, an insulated bag with a salad, my purse, and a hanging basket of tuber begonias for a hostess gift. Besides the family members I'd already met in Davenport at my presentation, I met Robert  (the great great grandson of Christopher Staffinger) who I'd describe as a Jimmy Stewart type. He was soft spoken, friendly, and welcoming. I really enjoyed getting to know him. His son, Robert, who lives in the Quad Cities, who had read the QC Times article, but couldn't attend my presentation was there also. Right away I was asked if I'd brought the quilt as he'd never seen it. I spread it out on the floor for all to see. They examined it with a fine- tooth comb as you can imagine. It was a treat to see them enjoy it as I always had. Shortly, 2 new people arrived, not family, but friends and quilters of the elder Roberts wife, Mary Lee. More examination of the quilt. I read from my notes the story of Christopher as I tell it in all my presentations. Two more relatives arrived from Macomb, IL, Robert's cousin, Mary Jane Williams, and her daughter who is also a quilter. Robert descended from Christopher's  daughter Rhoda,  and Mary Jane descended from his daughter Mary, so they are both great greats.
   After much discussion, the treasures came out! Robert displayed the rifle Christopher brought home from the war. It was made in South Carolina in 1854 (according to the inscription) and was very long, it stood up to my shoulders and was very heavy. I couldn't hold it straight out in front of me as if aiming to shoot. I took a picture of Robert and Mary Jane with the rifle...

                                           That is Robert's wife, Mary Lee, in the back to the left.

   Then Amanda gave me various copied documents to add to my collection. There were obituaries for Christopher's sister, Lena, and his daughter, Dora. I now have a copy of the church cemetary records recording the burial of his father, Peter, who served the Union in a different regiment, and died 3 years after the war. I have a copy of the record showing Peter's  will naming his heirs, one of which was Christopher. I have a copy of an article telling of Christopher's death, and one following his funeral. I have copies of the 1860 census of Orange County, Indiana listing the members of the Staffinger family. While I was there, a large coat box full of family pictures was brought out that no one other than Robert and Mary Lee knew existed. What a treat to see them for the first time with the others there! They graciuosly allowed me to scan them with my new hand-held scanner I'd bought especially for this occasion. Oh, did I have fun! It was like a treasure hunt, Easter egg hunt, scavenger hunt all rolled up into one! I got wonderful copies of many long-deceased family members...

Here is a large group of Staffinger family members from the 1920's, sometime after Christopher's death in 1922 and before  his wife, Margaret's death in 1929. That's her in the center, the oldest lady with her hair in a bun.

This is a photo of Margaret with the last living daughter's after Christopher's death. Bertha (Bird) on the left and Rhoda on the right. Rhoda is Robert's great Grandmother.

   One treasure brought out for me to see was the family cookbook that Robert purchased at the same auction (Bertha's estate sale 10/22/1977) where I bought the quilt. It had several pages where different family members had written inscriptions. The original one is where Christopher gave the cookbook to his wife, Margaret. The cookbook was published in 1854.

     This is a scan of the original auction listing from the Journal Pilot newspaper October13, 1977.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Bertha as a young woman. Isn't she beautiful?                                                                                     

  Here is a group picture taken Friday night in the Robert and Mary Lee Johnson home. From left to right in back: Patty Weigers (Robert's daughter), me, Robert and his cousin, Mary Jane,  her daughter________, front row: Elizabeth Weigers (Patty's daughter), Robert (the son), and Amanda Weigers (Patty's daughter).
 Don't I look extremely happy to be in that group?

    These are just a few of the photos I now own. Amanda has promised to send me more as they are found and identified. Mary Jane has family heirlooms she's agreed to photograph and send to me as well. I enjoyed an evening of listening to family stories as they all reminisced. I tried to memorize them all. When and if the Staffinger Quilt book is published, you will be able to read and see it all for yourself. As I was leaving, Robert stood to shake my hand. I put down my totes and said, "I need a hug from you! I already got one from the rest at Davenport." He ducked his head a bit and said, "Alright." Afterwards I said, "You know, I adopted Christopher as my great great Grandpa in my heart years ago. That makes you and me cousins, Robert!" He chuckled and said, "Yes, I guess it does."

Keep stitching!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Today's the Day!!!

   Ok, this is it. The day I've been waiting for since 1977. I'm going to the Carthage, Illinois home of Robert Johnson, great great grandson of Christopher Staffinger, to a family reunion and meet the other Staffinger descendants. I'll show them the quilt and they'll share their photos, heirlooms, and info with me! I can hardly contain myself. When I bought the quilt at that auction Oct.22, 1977, I couldn't have dreamed I'd be doing this. I've always thought, surely the family wouldn't have let this quilt go if they were living. You never know, there's a story behind everything, isn't there? I'm invited to dinner at 5 PM and I'll be on pins and needles all day.
   I have exciting news to share with them too. My co-author for Love and Valor, has agreed to work with me on a book for the Staffinger quilt too. This would happen only after completion of the L&V book first. I'm sure the family will be thrilled. They are totally supportive of my sharing this quilt and keeping Christopher's story alive.

  Here are some photos of this cherished quilt:
                                                     Full-view of Christopher Staffinger's quilt.
A closer look at the madder prints.
The cinnamon pink binding was possibly added later by his wife. It's machine sewn.
There are 3 blocks in pink, one in yellow, and one in blue. Christopher seemed to have depleted the brown prints in his mother's scrap bag!
Here is a peek at the hand-quilting he did, not pretty, but he tried.

  I'm sure I'll have pictures to share of my adventure today, so check in tomorrow. Till then, keep stitching!