Merry Christmas to those who celebrate. Here are some photos from past Decembers.
Merry Christmas to those who celebrate. Here are some photos from past Decembers.
The shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in my hometown happened three years ago today. I’ve written and rewritten this post several times. I have so much to say and yet nothing seems right. I could tell you guys about my experiences making friends in Newtown that I treasure still in adulthood. I guess I could try to share how much this community’s support meant to my family when my mom died in 1998. I could speak to the heroics of teachers and the legacies of children.
Maybe what’s most appropriate is a moment of silence for the ones who died and those left behind. Silence for our terrible world with some good people in it.
It’s the 10th day of the #31dayblogchallenge and #throwbackthursday too. So I’ll send you guys to a guest post from February 2015. It was written by my teenage brother Jim. Here are his thoughts on love and loss, in his own words, “I Was Never Alone.”
A #31dayblogchallenge post.
It’s a little embarrassing that I’ve got a blanket wrapped around my Christmas tree stand, Linus style.
Thing is, the tree skirt my mom made didn’t survive the wash. It was smelly when I took it out of the ornament box so I tossed it in the wash.
I knew it might fall apart because of the materials she chose to use at that stage of her quilting journey. Plus the ties weren’t close enough together. Mom’s later quilts were better but this skirt is beloved and has been used under my tree for years. Well, it got all lumpy in the wash.
All is not lost. I’m redoing my childhood reading quilt and I can do something similar with the fabrics from this tree skirt. So I cut it apart and set the fabrics aside to repurpose into a couch throw later. They’re a little threadbare but with the right interfacing it won’t be a problem. For now they’re in a UFO box next to the reading blocks.
Today’s blog post is written by my brother Jim. Our Mom died a few days after he was born and my brother, sister, and I have all had to deal with abandonment issues in one form or another. Here’s part of Jim’s story in his own words.
*** Photo captions are available below Jim’s words. I didn’t want to interrupt.***
To this day I do not remember any feelings of emotion towards my mother. For a while I had been really depressed and sad that I didn’t have a mother and I felt very alone and abandoned by God and my mother.
I feel that I’m being “abandoned” and I talk to my dad who also is very depressed about his loss of his wife (my mother). He always just says, “She was a wonderful woman” or “She would have loved you so much” and that really does not help me with the depression that I am dealing with.
So, I turn to the Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy and turn to the definition of Mother in the “Glossary.” The definition of Mother is something like, “Help” or “Caring” which, also does not help me. So, at this time I feel the most abandoned in my life.
In addition, when I met an important person in my life, Sheri Luster, I found out what motherhood was all about and what a mother is like. As I like to say, “Sheri is the mother I never had.” Even though it is kind of supposed to be the other way around.
Anyways, Sheri was caring, loving, and helpful. Which, did remind me of the definition of Mother in the Science and Health. So, I realized what a motherly figure in my life would do and it helped me.
Lastly, I saw my mother in Sheri and other women in my life.
I even saw my mother in my dad because he was a single parent and basically had all of the weight on his shoulders.
This led to me having a healing of realizing that I was never alone and that my mother and God were there right with me the whole time, I just did not see it. Also, recently when I was out of school sick for a week I visited a doctor’s office because of my sickness and I was nervous and scared and I felt really alone, like nobody was there for me. And then I realized that God was there, Sheri was literally there, and I saw someone walk by the door outside the room at the doctor’s office that looked quite like my mom.
I suppose that could have been an angel or something but that was when my mental healing occurred for not feeling well physically and spiritually. So, that is how I overcame my feeling abandoned.
Want more? Jim has a Facebook Page. He posts daily insights and thought-provoking videos. It’s called Finding the Keys to Success.
My baby brother turned sixteen yesterday. I guess that means he’s not a baby anymore! I, as the snarky big sis had to post this meme for him.
I’ve got the feels… lots of them. So it’s difficult to write about what Jim means to me, especially without embarrassing him in the process. (Teenagers!) So I’ll let these scrapbook pages that I made a few years ago do the talking. These photos were all taken before baby Jimmy was two weeks old.
I love you kiddo.
I’m the guest blogger today over at Bad Ass Quilter’s Society. Don’t be alarmed by the title over there. The naked quilting series is about quilts, not bodies. I wrote about my quilt, “It’s Not A Fish,” which was made after a miscarriage. Check that article out and then head back here for some bonus information.
Children are often asked what they want to be when they grow up. My two answers, invariably, were an artist and a mommy. So, of course, this baby was wanted.
The two silhouettes in the last column were traced from family photographs. Mom is looking forward with hope and my cousin Jasmine is screaming.
The guild challenge was to make a row (or column) quilt. It had to use three floral fabrics and have at least five rows. Do you see the flowers? The fabric used for the fish is also floral.
This quilt told me that it needed to be mostly grey. (Does your art speak to you? This piece was very specific!) Since I only had one grey fabric in my stash, I reached out to friends who were generous with their scraps. Thanks guys.
I designed the paper-piece pattern for the hearts. They gradually go from mostly warm (browns) to mostly cold (greys) without completely becoming one temperature or the other.
On the day I lost my baby, I wanted absolute quiet. No activity or noise at all. Certainly no conversation. Later, talking would become important.
When I told my aunt what happened she suggested that I change my labels: a miscarriage, rather than my miscarriage. Words are important. It’s not my fault.
I started seeing a therapist a few weeks after miscarrying. It was one of the best things I could do, deciding actively focus on healing. Our sessions included dealing with the loss of my mom when I was 14.
What’s your experience with art? Creating is one of my healthiest ways to express loss. It’s also a delight to make things about connection and new beginnings.
25% off most items in my Etsy shop through the end of August. Enjoy!
Memorial day is both a solemn remembrance of the death of American soldiers and a celebration of their service. Sounds like an oxymoron to some, but being sad and celebrating makes sense to me.
See, my Mom’s mother died young. I never got to meet her. So Mom and I had lots of conversations about death when I was little. One fantasy Mom had was to be cremated and have her ashes spread in someone’s garden. I thought it’d be romantic to drift out to sea. We talked about how hard it is when someone you love died… how it’s okay to be angry and sad. Mom said she’d like a big party after her funeral. One where people laughed and smiled and remembered the good times.
So that’s what we did. Mom died suddenly when I was only fourteen. We cried and laughed. Mourned and celebrated. She was not a soldier, but soldiers aren’t just their job. They’re brothers, fathers, sisters, sons, mothers. Some of the people honored this memorial day will be remembered by their great-great-grandchildren. My thoughts are with each of you as you celebrate and honor your loved ones in your own way.
And now for some pictures of my garden. Growth, death, new life… yeah, gardening works for Memorial Day. Here’s the front. That big fro of foliage is carrots. Yup, my husband vetoed thinning the plants so we might have one giant carrot under that mess. We also have garlic and onions in this patch.
These corn plants are doing pretty well.Their neighboring corn plants, not so well. They’ve become a tasty treat for the local bunnies.
It’s nearly time to put the second tire on our potato planters. Remember how small these guys used to be? We’ll need a bale of hay soon too.
This pumpkin plant is doing well. Only two of six have thrived.
All of the watermelon plants look thick and bushy like this. They must like it here. I predict our backyard will be gradually overtaken by vines…. and watermelon slushies are in order at harvest time. Mmmmm….
Expect an update on the T-shirt quilt I’m working on in my next post.
My mom (pictured above with baby Megan) was an artist. She loved doing arts and crafts projects with my sister and I. She got into candle-making, wreaths, cross-stitch, chocolate molds, and more. But her real passion became quilting. In the few years that she was a quilter, she made dozens of quilts. Most were given away to friends and family. I have a few. So in honor of mother’s day, here are some of her works of art.
Along with being an artist, Mom was a lifelong learner. This was great for quilting because there are so many techniques available! The Christmas wall-hanging above was made with fusible webbing and tied. Years later, I hand-sewed the shapes down that were starting to peel away from the backing fabric.
I love the message of this poem. Sometimes what seems like a bad thing is really for the best. I also love that it’s in Mom’s handwriting. She kept her lines straight using a light-box. Lit from behind, a lined sheet of paper was placed underneath the white fabric she wrote on. Smart!
Here’s another one that’s mostly fused. Mom machine quilted between the blocks and in the borders on the machine that I now use. It’s the one I learned on and inherited. This quilt hung above the fireplace in our last house. It’s a Christmas one so I intended to take it down in January the first year we were there. My husband and our housemate liked it so much they asked me to leave it up a bit longer, and that was its home spot for all the years we were there.
Another thing to point out about this piece is the skin tones. Can you see it? Mom put in different colored skin tones not only to be realistic, but also to honor her love of people from lots of different backgrounds. Even though we lived in a mostly-white Connecticut town, she her book-club, church, and quilting friends had all different skin tones. And stories. I felt so grown up when I was allowed to join their conversations.
I took a Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Andy quilt class with Mom. She ended up with this beautiful quilt. I ended up quitting halfway through because my applique skills were frustrating. This was machine appliqued using a zig-zag stitch and invisible thread. I wanted mine to look like the sample, which had perfect tiny black zig-zags. Yeah, black thread isn’t such a good idea for a thirteen-year-old.
I remember helping Mom decide what each character would be doing, and helping her find the embellishments. Sue’s running from bumblebee buttons. Andy’s pulling a wagon with yo-yo wheels.
Mom quilted this one by machine too. The kids are outlined and the rest is stitched-in-the-ditch. I remember the quilt shop where this class was held had limited parking. It had a sign out front that read, “Quilter’s Parking Only. Violators Will Be Stitched In The Ditch.”
By the time Mom started churning out more quilt tops than she could finish, I my interest in quilting had dimmed. I’d rather be talking on the phone with my best friend for hours, waiting for the radio to play my favorite song ever, deciding which shirt would be best to wear tomorrow, and other teenage girly things.
I do remember picking up a few pieces from the long-armer and being amazed at her huge machine. It took up the whole room! I wish I knew that woman’s name now, so I could add her to the label. This tulip quilt was one of the first to be sent her way.
Okay now we’re into the baby quilts. My parents decided not to learn the gender of the baby, so there are a few quilts with both blue and pink as my Mom wondered. They picked out two names, one for a boy and one for a girl. James Patrick won out as my brother Jimmy was born. He’s shortened it to Jim and made his way to prom last weekend. Ho boy has he grown up!
There’s at least one more baby sized quilt I’m holding onto until my brother’s ready to have them at his own place. You know, when he’s old enough to have his own place. It’s a grandmother’s flower garden, paper-pieced and beautiful.
The last quilt I’m showing you today was made after Mom found out that her colors are Autumn inspired. (Remember this post? I’m an autumn, too!) She didn’t have a lot of fall colors in her stash or quilt collection so she challenged herself to make this one.
When she passed, it was only a top. So her friends in the local quilting group finished it… by hand. Look at this beautiful hand quilting in-between the stars. It’s dedicated to the baby. Such a work of love it takes my breath away just to look at.
Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, and all the mothers out there. All of this information is recalled from memory. Just know that even when your teenage daughter is rolling her eyes at you and answering every question with “fine” that they’re probably still paying attention. I was.
I’m restoring my reading quilt, which I introduced to you guys in this post. I discovered something really cool when I started cutting the blocks out. I thought that this lumpy quilt was just the three layers: top, batting, and backing. I assumed that the batting was lumpy because it was poor-quality polyester which was commonly used when this quilt was made in 1991. I was wrong.
Here’s what I found underneath the first block. Huh. Interesting. There’s another quilt in there! It’s degraded to the point that the fabrics are thin and literally falling apart. There’s hand-embroidery across the block as well as ties.
Here’s what it looks like after I’ve cut out all of the reading blocks. There’s a crazy quilt under there! It’s completely done by hand with large pieces of fabric and large hand embroidery.
You’ll notice that some of the borders are still there. That’s because before my current plan of restoring the quilt by reusing the blocks, I tried to add some quilting and save it that way. I didn’t get far with that plan before deciding it wasn’t the way to go. Here’s a closer look at some of the embroidery.
I wanted to see if there were any surprises hiding under the backing fabric, so I cut into that. Nope, looks like the backing is original to the crazy quilt, as it’s attached to that. The stuffing is completely falling apart, as you can see.
I did a burn test on the batting to see if it’s synthetic or natural. Since it caught fire right away, instead of melting or curling away from the flame like rayon and polyester it’s a natural fiber. Probably cotton or wool.
Here are my top two theories on the history of this crazy quilt. We may never know for sure. First, it could have been made by maternal grandmother. She started a cathedral window quilt that includes fabrics from Mom’s communion dress, Papa’s handkerchief, Grandad’s shirt, and more. (Read more about Papa here.) But she never finished it. The story is that she liked the idea but hated sewing it so it was a UFO (unfinished object) that Mom completed when she learned to quilt. Now it’s a family treasure. Maybe she made the crazy quilt before starting the cathedral window, which is a much more difficult project.
Second theory. My Dad’s grandmother (Gigi to me) was a healer. Sometimes people bartered for her services instead of giving money. She might also have sewn herself, I don’t really know. Anyway, when she died our family found a stack of beautiful, hand-sewn quilts. None of them had labels so we didn’t know who the makers were. Mom was given some of those and maybe this one, which has clearly been falling apart for a very long time, was re-purposed that summer that I learned to love reading.
Some others of Gigi’s quilts are still out there somewhere, intact I hope. I learned to quilt with my Mom. After she died, it was too painful to do it without her for a long time. Besides, I was a teenager who wanted to spend her time at the movies, mall, and finding a boyfriend. So her fabric stash, rulers, and other supplies were given to her quilting friends. Over time other things were given away too, including those unknown quilters’ art.
I came back to quilting about five years after Mom’s death… to make a Christmas present for my cousin Jade. I am an artist, and fabric is a great medium to express that. Plus, sometimes, it makes me feel closer to my ancestors.