Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Monday Memoir--Quilts

I missed last week being totally caught up in the season's first major sled dog race, the Copper Basin 300 in which several of my favorite mushers were competing. However, although the race season will continue through mid-March when the Iditarod will be over, I'll try to keep going here *almost* every week! This time I want to talk about quilts, another hobby and passion of mine.

            I grew up with quilts. My maternal grandmother was an old time quilter. Like generations before her in the Kentucky hill country, she grew up with a waste not, want not philosophy. Her era was long before our disposable economy came to be when the women of the family, and that included girls barely past toddler age, made sure nothing was wasted. They grew much of the family food in a garden and sewed clothing for the whole family, rough Lindsey Woolsey and canvas pants and work clothes for the men folk, shirts and simple garments for the little ones and more elaborate dresses for the older girls and women.
Each length of fabric was precious, so after a garment was cut out, the scraps were shaped and stitched into quilts. To use all the bits and pieces, many of the designs were elaborate and utilized very small pieces. The end results were things of beauty even if hand made and often of patterns the main seamstress invented. During the Depression years, this habit continued. By then chicken feed, flour and other commodities came in cotton bags many of which were printed with floral and other patterns so they could be recycled into dish towels, aprons and other clothing. Still, the smallest scraps were put to use!
I was a mere toddler when I can first recall sleeping under the small quilt Grandma Witt made for me. I was not yet able to appreciate the fine little stitches to piece the top and the elaborate patterns also stitched to secure the layers of top, filling or batting and the back. That was the actual quilting and was often done by a group of women who came together for “quilting bees” to gossip and visit, drink coffee, tea or other things and sew on the quilt, stretched in a frame, probably set up in the largest room of the house. I could not tell you the pattern of that quilt face but even then might recognize a piece here and there as in a dress or apron my mom had and soon dresses made for me. Many more of her quilts came to our family and were both used and cherished. I still have a couple, fragile now and put safely away.
By the time I was in my late teens, Grandma was starting to lose her keen eyesight and arthritis was taking its toll on her hands. However, she and her younger sister still sewed and I was kept in clothes through high school by their work although by then I began to take up sewing myself. I kept myself in clothes most of my college and working days and also made many things for my daughter and western shirts for the family menfolk.
The first time I fell in love, I decided I should begin to accumulate a “hope chest” of things for my future home. I shocked my paternal aunts when I told them not to start me on a collection of silver tableware for it was too hard to take care of so I preferred stainless steel! About that time, since I had sewed enough to have a big stash of pieces and scraps, I decided to start a quilt. My nine-square patches were not perfect and not exactly sized so when I tried to put them together, they were not coming out well and I gave up, putting the parts away for many years. They accompanied me through many moves and travels.
First quilt-top half front
Actually it was not until after my husband had passed away in 2003 that I dug out the old  efforts with the idea of trying
to make the quilt for real. I found I did not have enough for a full bed sized quilt. First I took apart, adjusted and reassembled the many squares so they would be fairly uniform and then made lots more. I cut narrow strips and smaller squares to put the nine-patch squares together. It took some time and I would pause now and then to remember the history of this or that piece of cotton—a dress I had made while in college, something I had made for my daughter. The work went
First quilt- lower half front
slowly and I spent quite a lot of that summer, 2004, on the project, watched by the two dogs I had then.
Finally the top was done. I bought the batting and then decided to make the back somewhat decorative also although not with small pieces. Still it was not too plain or dull! It all went together and I started to use it on my bed. I had received some quilts from a dear friend including one she made in memory of my husband—he’d befriended her too—in the style of the memorial robes the Plains Indians had crafted. From those I got some ideas to delve into new methods and designs for my work.
Technically my projects have never been “quilts” for instead of the patterns of binding stitches, I just tie through them in many places with compatible or complimentary colors of yarn. I’ve never had a frame or a circle of friends to quilt with me! So they are patchwork comforters, I guess.
The second quilt or coverlet I attempted was almost too big a project. My brother, then living in Colorado while I was yet in Arizona, was a life long railroad fan as well as being employed with that industry all his adult life. I was going to make him a train-themed quilt for his California King sized bed. Do you know how humongous they are!?
part of the train quilt
I discovered a wonderful on-line fabric store called eQuilter.com and was delighted to find they had lots of cotton fabric with train themed prints. The pieces I put together ranged from about 18 x 24 inches down to roughly inch wide strips in track patterns. This one is fully reversible and decorative on both sides. It was supposed to be a Christmas gift but took me longer than I had planned! Still I was not displeased with the results and Charlie liked it. He still uses it at times and it is not in bad shape.
Since then I have made a few more bed-sized quilts and Alaska and the other is in pink patterns to honor the fact she is a breast cancer survivor. Each one of my quilts is always created so either side can be displayed.
sled dog face
many crib or lap robe sized ones as well as some pictorial wall hangings and other decorative or useful pieced items such as place mats and coasters. In fact I do a lot more fabric art and household or decorative items now than clothes. Many friends and family members have one or more of my smaller items. Most of them are themed as in the two sided lap robe quilt I made for lady musher Deedee Jonrowe after she lost her home and possessions to an Alaskan  wildfire in 2014. One side of it is about sled dogs and Alaska and the other is in pink patterns to honor the fact she is a breast cancer survivor. Each one of my quilts is always created so either side can be displayed.

Breast cancer pink side
Right now I have my original quilt on my bed but sadly it is mostly hidden from view with a protective dust cover since I now have two dogs who insist on sleeping on ‘my’ bed—or maybe letting me sleep on their bed if the truth be known. Since they are both inside and outdoor dogs, they do bring in dust, dry grass and other debris which would not be good for my special first quilt. I think their company and love is worth more than seeing those bits of fabric all the time…but I still treasure it and try to keep it from to much wear and tear. I have not made one for a time and the itch is starting, especially when I get the emails from eQuilter and look at the fabulous fabrics and patterns they have! Some are too complex for my skill but they give me ideas. 

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