Just Starting Out?

I must admit I think I got a little miffed. I shouldn’t have been because I am “just starting out” with embroidery. I’ve never taken the time away from knitting, quilting, cutting up fabric, sticking it in dye pots, painting it and painting yarn.

It was a nice compliment but I’ve been doing what I do since 1987. Dyeing my own fabrics, making quilts totally by hand from start to finish, selling my work, exhibiting my work in juried shows and THEN what do I do?

I start collecting antique quilts and tops and vintage fabrics to the point where my husband would say “We might starve to death, but we won’t freeze to death.” Nice of him to take it that way.

In 1987, when I first started quilting, I asked Mom if I could have the old scraps that Grandma Nannie gave her. Hmm. Well she looked at me kind of funny and then had Dad get the box down out of the attic. It seems they weren’t scraps but 127 completed Evening Star blocks pieced by my Great Grandmother Mary Eleanor Keller, Great Aunt Nancy Keller and Great Aunt Libby Keller. Plus there were pieces in the box from Grandma Nannie and some from Grandma Hattie, Dad’s Mom. That box was full of stuff.

I took it back to Michigan and on Monday I got busy and made soapy water in my kitchen sink. Those old blocks were musty and the oldest, some Bear Paw blocks, were stiff. I started to cry. Honestly I sobbed like a baby dunking those blocks in the water.

There was a baby quilt unfinished. Dunk, in it went. All the pieces I could fit in the sink went in. Including 50 or so Drunkard’s Path blocks made from double pinks and indigo blue shirtings. These were not reproduction fabrics. Nope. They were the real thing.

I hung them on the line downstairs to dry and started planning how to piece the Evening Star blocks together. I just set them edge on edge and hand sewed them into a top. It was about twin size. I then put a navy blue cotton border around them to set them off.

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My Family and I

There we all are, except for Mom. Published in Great American Quilts 1992, I couldn’t believe how excited I was.

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Oxmoor House used this quilt again in Our Favorite Scrap Quilts. I sent photos of my mother’s work too and they got in touch with her and published two of her quilts in Best Loved Traditional Quilt Patterns along with two more of mine. And then we moved to Prince Edward Island.

I sold antique quilts and rare, used and out of print books while I lived on the Island. I found lots of rare books that I could buy on PEI. I also sold all of my work through a gallery in Charlottetown. She sold a lot of my antique quilts too and that was lovely because I had to do nothing except find the quilts.

I sold all of these. Some before I moved to PEI and some while I was there.

There were more, I made over 100 quilts between 1987 and 2000. I quilted constantly when I was working as a psychic. I had free time during the day as most of my clients worked and came at night or schedule groups of 6 or more in their homes, usually on the weekends.

I don’t have pictures of all of them. In fact, I do  have the pictures, I just don’t know WHERE I have the pictures. The pictures were my late husband’s department and I have no clue what they’re in or where they’re at!

The fuchsia, navy and purple quilt in the odd position was because it was hanging at a quilt show and that’s the best picture we could get. It was quilted in navy cotton thread with a cotton batting before the cotton batting was made to be easy to quilt through. I swear my hands haven’t recovered yet from that quilt and it’s been over 20 years. But it was okay. I had it hanging at my friend’s quilt shop and a client of her’s walked in – stopped dead – and paid $1500 for that quilt. And that was in 1991, I think. It was the first quilt I sold, but from then on they went like hotcakes.

It was just before Christmas and I called Mom and Dad and asked them to meet us in Fort Wayne, IN for a celebration. I was able to give Mom more quilting supplies, tools she needed and didn’t have.

I had taught Mom to quilt in 1989 . She was visiting while Dad put a new roof on my garage. He was only 73, a sprightly young thing crawling around on roofs. Let’s just say he didn’t appreciate the help my husband gave him. Like taking the can of nails up on the roof and then letting them fall off and litter the driveway. Dad made him pick up every last one.

In December 2005, I was contacted by the photographer for Patchwork Quilt Tsushin, but the editor of the magazine was coming to PEI and he wanted to know if I still had all my antique quilts. No, they were all gone. I had family quilts and ones I’d made, but no antique quilts. They came anyway to take photos of my work. It ended up being primarily my mother’s work, not mine as the editor wanted pictures of traditional quilts. I prepared for the visit by finishing quilting a Russian Sunflower quilt I’d started in 1996. Hand pieced sunflowers appliquéd on a background and set on point. Beautiful quilt, wish I had that one now.

A year later I was published in that magazine as part of a group of quilters on PEI. The Japanese love PEI and better yet, Anne of Green Gables. They can’t get enough of her. I did.

Now, after having been busy as my husband’s primary caregiver from 2010 until his death in 2014, I have my life back. I had no time for anything but cleaning, laundry, cooking and watching over him so he didn’t do something stupid and hurt himself. Like when a light bulb would go out and he’d head downstairs to the electric panel and start flipping switches on and off. I would only know what he was doing when our son would yell that the power went off in his room, while his computer was running. Our son was not thrilled.

Even with his relocation to a nursing home in 2013, I was still so busy with visiting him every other day, helping to figure out why he wouldn’t eat, helping to feed him while I was there. When he couldn’t eat in 2013 I took lunches to him, thinking it was the food, not the disease. They finally switched him to totally thickened liquids and ground food. He ate like that for a year before his death.

Now I’m back. I have plans. I can actually do those plans although my son said to me last night. “Keep in mind you are going to be very busy doing that all by yourself.” In other words, don’t expect me to do anything! Seems he must remember the times he “helped” start my garden on our double lot in Michigan, or the times he “helped” at antique shows and setting up and helped by going to antique shows to find stock. He helped. Now he says no. That’s okay. I can at least still get him to carry heavy boxes, maybe.

Just starting out. I guess that could be true. I’m just starting out with renewed energy, renewed enthusiasm, renewed faith that I will walk on my Spiritual Path in the manner intended. I will be mindful and I will create mindful art. Sounds good to me.

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