Thursday, May 30, 2013

Grandpa and Brother

We have a new sprout on the family tree!  A week ago yesterday, my brother's daughter, my niece Beth, gave birth to her second daughter, little Hannah Faith.  My brother is now "Grandpa" to two.

As soon as I opened this image sent by the proud grandpa, I couldn't help but see my father etched in my brother's face. The slope of the nose, the shape of the mouth, even the profile echo my dad and remind me so clearly that our DNA shapes and helps determine us. As I age, I note traces of my mother and my grandmother surfacing in me; it pleases me.  My mother and father never lived to see their great grandchildren come into the world, but they live on in this our common and continuing family tree.  I wonder what traits of theirs might manifest in this new generation? We are never really alone when connected to the all the saints who have gone before us.  Amazing, profound, glorious, and comforting, isn't it?

The past week, we celebrated Memorial Day, and as the family representatives living locally, Jim and I assume the responsibility of decorating the graves of both sets of parents.  As I made the quilt for baby Hannah, I also keenly felt a similar matriarchal emissary status.

I finished the quilt last night, knotting the final thread on the hand sewed chocolate binding around the edges.  I sewed a quilt label to the inside corner, labeling Hannah's quilt with my own name.  Someday that just may mean something to her.  I hope so.

The quilt design is the same brick pattern I used for the quilt I made my granddaughter Rosemary last year. Rosie and I regularly snuggle under its weight during her nap time, thus I know first hand of its warmth and covering.

Sunday, we meet Dick and Lissa in Lewisburg, and I will hand off Hannah's quilt for special delivery to their new granddaughter. Dick is preaching at the chapel service for their 40th Bucknell College reunion.  I remember driving our little VW Beetle over those country roads to visit my big brother after he left me, a high school senior, to become a college freshman.  I was and always have been so proud of him...

Friday, May 24, 2013


With a last name like Campbell, I ought to be thrifty if one believes in stereotypes.  However, the real penny pincher in our family is my husband, who has long suffered with me, a more impulsive buyer who doesn't often comparison shop.  I do try, from time to time, and lately I have scored big (at least in my mind!) by thrift store shopping.

During our recent church women's retreat, one of our church matriarchs suggested that if I wanted to get a good deal on fabric and sewing supplies to use for our mission quilts, I ought to check out the State College Women's Club Thrift Store.  Open once a week on Thursdays, this thrift store has been in existence a long time, as has this branch of The Women's Club itself

I went a couple of weeks ago, looking for sheets to use as quilt backings. I found two brand new single bed sheets, in unopened, original packaging.  $2.00.  I also found a stack of hefty fabric squares, of home decorator weight colorful fabrics.  $1.25!  Those fabric squares were cut and pieced into tote bags--one for my friend's May birthday:

 one for a friend who is retiring:

 and one for our CROP Walk silent auction in October:

I lined the bags with stash fabric, embellished them with buttons from my button box or pins thrifted from St. Vincent dePaul Society Thrift Store.

Three bags crafted for under $5.00 total, I would guess.  Maybe I am a good Scot after all.  Jim, I really do least sometimes.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

My cup runneth over

Old  habits really never die, do they?  Monday morning, I outline my week, substituting my former class "agenda" with what I label on my desktop as a "to list."  This was the that week that just was:

Week of May 13

Work out
Meet with Matt’s staff
Calling Committee
Hand quilting
Sewing Circle
Lexicon Ladies
Meet and Greet Early Intervention staff

Work out
Meet with Colleen O’B 
Celebration of the Arts


Pen Pal Meet and Greet
Out of the Cold Meeting 

Pick up Vidalia Onions
Deliver chairs for reupholstering to Williamsport

I pray I may never  take the gift of  time, of  these retirement years, for granted: 
my days are filled with the gifts of many good things...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Garter Squish

Finally finished my Garter Squish (the name of this pattern makes me smile), and still leftover yarn is leftover.  But not nearly as much as when I started!

This warm afghan is destined to be a Christmas present for someone.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Scrappy Patchwork Quilt


"We do not live an equal life, but one of contrasts and patchwork:
now a little joy, then a sorrow, now a sin, then a generous or brave action."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

I really love patchwork quilts, or scrappy quilts as they are often referred to by quilters.  Sorting through small pieces of remnant fabric, matching up all different colors and designs, and stitching them up into one large, useful cloth is historic needlework practice.  Nothing ever went to waste. Everything was reused or repurposed, as we now say.  It was and still is a good idea.

Our church sewing group is the beneficiary of piles of fabric, donated by people cleaning out their closets, downsizing stitchers, or simply women who no longer sew.  Yet, even after we cut out 11 inch blocks for our mission quilts, piles of usable fabric remain. 

I pulled together a bag of leftover fabric and decided I would try to create some true patchwork for one of our quilt tops. Cutting strips of varying width, sewing them together, and then using my rulers and rotary cutter, I fashioned a stack of 11 inch blocks. Alternating the orientation between vertical and horizontal striping, I sewed the blocks together...

...and together some more...

All these fabrics from different homes and different lives,  joined together in stripes of varying widths.  It is amazing how this panoply of color, hue, and tone creates something so vividly eyecatching and so ultimately useful. emerged rather haphazardly, without tremendous plan or precision.  Recently I heard a writer stress the importance of process over product. Journey over destination. I tend toward overplanning, a compulsion to prepare for every contingency, fill every minute, anticipate every need.  But the beauty of life sometimes simply unfolds from minutes and moments stitched together, just as they appear... 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Hand Quilting: If at first you don't succeed....

I learned something new this week, both about quilting and myself.  Tuesday I took a class on hand quilting, a a back-to-the-basics approach that has intrigued me ever since I learned how to quilt. I want to know how to do it the way it used to be done.  Turns out hand quilting is not as easy as running stitches through layers of filled fabric.

You need supplies--a quilting hoop (which is not just a big embroidery hoop), marking pens, a design template, special needles called "betweens" (I thought it was a misprint for needles on my class description), special hand quilting thread (heavier and glazed), a special thimble (my mother's thimble, tucked in my sewing basket, lacks a special ridge to catch and anchor the needle), along with a steady stream of patience and persistence. Learning how to hold the needle correctly, use the thimble effectively, and train your fingers to pinch the fabric, stack the needle, and pull the thread to sew small, even stitches is all much more challenging than I thought it would be.

Not long into my class, I began to rethink my desire to learn how to hand quilt.  My thumb balked at lining up with the needle and my rocking stitch refused to rock. I listened and watched fellow newbies move from asking clarifying questions to stitching away in a relaxed flow.  I struggled to get half of my heart stitched, merely the very inside rim two hours.   Inwardly, I kept repeating, "I don't think I can do this."  I came home with a splitting headache.  

I tend to obsess over challenges I can't figure out so I retreated to my safe place--a book.  I read different instructions from the spoken ones offered by my teacher and studied the step-by-step photos that illustrated close up shots of the technique.  I knew with time to process and space to practice, I could do this. It might not be pretty, small, or exact but it would eventually happen. First, I needed to understand the flow of needle, thimble, and thread, so I practiced....and slowly my shoulders relaxed, my mind quieted, and stitches began to appear more easily.

This first stab at hand quilting was never designed by our instructor as a finished product; yet I believe there is merit in keeping this rudimentary sample of this first foray into hand quilting.  Yesterday, I preserved it as pocket on a patchwork tote bag, a most useful reminder of the pitfalls along the path of persistence, patience, and perseverance.