Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Two family milestones mark this month--a new home for our son and his wife and a new baby for our daughter's family.  Pretty thrilling all around.

Two weekends ago signaled the big move for Rob and Alexis. The U-Haul began its journey at our house, loaded up with furniture passed along from our house to theirs.  A hefty and hardy moving crew of family and friends spent two days shifting furniture and belongings from the Harrisburg apartment to the Harrisburg home, a charming, brick two-story in a tree-lined neighborhood that reminds Jim and me of our own.  

Now the transformation from house to home begins as Rob and Alexis order, arrange, and discover how to live in this new space of their lives.  Over these past few weeks, my mind has revisited the three houses that have provided home to our family.  We learned so much about being homeowners and about living within all those walls.  What stories will now be written within these...

And now we wait for the next big change, the birth of our second grandchild, a second grandson.  All is ready, both for us and for his mama.  Her suitcase is packed and ours sits on a bed upstairs.  We have several meals frozen in our freezer to be transferred to hers. The quilt is wrapped and ready to go.  All we need now is a phone call telling us it is time, and we will make the trek south to greet with joy the newest member of our family.

In the meantime, I am knitting sweaters...several baby sweaters. One for little James, one for a colleague who recently adopted daughter number two, and one more for a layette kit for Lutheran World Relief.  This cute pattern, the "Easy Baby Cardigan" is found in More Last Minute Knitted Gifts.  Making these little sweaters has helped me pass the time while waiting, never really an easy task.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quilting (part II)

in the unknown world
the woman
threading together her need
and her needle
nods toward the smiling girl
this will keep us warm.
-lucille clifton, from quilting

The quilt for Jamie is finished.  Now, we simply await his arrival.

I am pleased with the final product—a colorful, happy blanket, intended to be used, wrapped, crumpled, soiled, and washed, over and over again.  I hope this pieced quilt will become a well loved prop in the unfolding life of this our newest grandson as he explores the world around him.

It delights me that this trusty, little Singer Featherweight machine rumbled alongside me as I stitched this together.  This little machine, made in 1955 (which I discovered by matching a serial number to a Featherweight website) and highly prized by quilters, was the same sewing machine on which my mother taught me to sew.  Early in my married years, Mom bequeathed it to me, and this machine stitched together curtains for three homes, Halloween costumes and Christmas outfits for three children, and even made that little yellow baby quilt in the previous post.

While it is a champ at piecing (the stitching together of all the blocks for the top), it is not ideal for machine quilting (the sewing together of all the layers of the quilt—top, batting, border, and back), because even though it is a heck of a workhorse, its size does not easily accommodate yards of fabric and batting.  The weight and bulk of it all is often too much for a little Featherweight.  But I muddled through alright, this tepid adverb aptly describing my thoughts on the experience.  My quilting is okay, acceptable for my first crack at it, but my craftwomanship is far from good.  I have lines that zip and wander from the straight diagonals they are supposed to be.  In an email to my teacher last week, I opined:

While I realize that I have miles to go before I can really attach the word quilter to my name, I am not displeased (despite my grumbling yesterday) with this sweet little quilt I am making for James.  I toyed with the idea of ripping out some of my meandering lines, but decided to keep them in, as a benchmark to future progress and a story to share with my grandchildren about the sometimes frustrating process of learning something new.

It is good for this freshly retired teacher to be reminded that the process of learning is two-sided, a duel presentation of the vexation of a venture into unfamiliar territory concomitant with the pleasure of new discovery.

Today I sew an embroidered label on the back.  And within the next few weeks, in my grandson’s own right time, I will present this quilt to my daughter to swaddle a new life, her youngest son, within its folds. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011


somewhere in the unknown world
a yellow eyed woman
sits with her daughter
-from "quilting" by lucille clifton

I have always been drawn to quilts, intrigued by the womanly art of them, appreciative of resourcefulness of the craft, and respectful of the warmth of their beautiful practicality.  Quilts carry family history in fabrics cut from old garments and in stitches sewn by mothers or grandmothers or aunts or sisters or friends.  I cherish quilts passed along from women in my life--two from my family and one from several circles of friends who hand pieced a quilt presented to me when our family moved away; I love that quilt...

Thirty six years ago, I even made a little quilt myself.  It was for a new baby (our Barbara), assembled with leftover gingham from a bassinet skirt I made.  Using cardboard as a template, I cut out squares, stitched them together, backed it with some yellow fabric, fashioned a ruffled border, and then knotted it.  It is amateurish in design and construction, but that quilt was used for two Campbell babies (Rob as well) and was pulled out for our first grandchild Alexander. It still washes up well.

One of my retirement goals was to make a quilt.  I am not sure I was even all that serious about it; however, in a moment of impulse in June, I signed up to take a quilting class at our local yarn store, Stitch Your Art Out.  The class was listed for beginners, the project was a small quilt (perfect for a baby quilt), and the instructor was Deb Kerr, a fellow State High faculty member who I admire both as a teacher and quilter. I just finished the first two classes this week, and I am hooked.

Each step of this new adventure has been enjoyable and gratifying.

Picking out the fabric was made easier since I knew I wanted the quilt to complement the blanket I knit for baby James. I find it liberating that this new generation of mamas no longer adheres to traditional baby colorways, so I felt free to go colorfully wild in choosing fabric and colors.  

Sewing machine, fabric, and recommended tools in tow, I climbed the shop stairs last week to begin my class.  Sitting with three other women, I spent a stimulating afternoon learning about rotary cutting, quilting rulers, 1/4 inch stitching (I am thrilled with my trusty old Singer Featherweight for this!), and grey thread.  It is a new lexicon for this knitter.

In two afternoons, we cut, pieced, and began to sew it all together.  This morning I finished stitching together the top of the quilt.  Learning something new and stretching my mind in different directions has been a stimulating first step into retirement. It has been a good week....

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are 
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." 
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, July 4, 1776

Every 4th of July during the last few years of my father's life, he came to our home for a picnic.  And he always brought a copy of the Declaration of Independence to read aloud to all us.  And so this post is for you, Dad.  I read it to myself is good to remind ourselves about the principles this country was founded upon.