Friday, July 7, 2017

Magpie

Sometimes I feel like a magpie that carries sparkly things back to her nest to hoard. My sparkly things are stories. One of my favorite things to do is to get people talking about themselves so I can hear their stories. I love reading memoirs. I grew up listening to Paul Harvey and I am a faithful listener to Mike Rowe's podcast. I am also a family historian. I research not just for dates, but for the little nuggets of personality and personal history that are recorded, sometimes accidentally. One of my most exciting research discoveries was the day I figured out why my husband's fourth great-grandfather was referred to as "the horse thief" by the generations after. It wasn't what you would think, either. Who would want to be remembered as a punchline to a joke that time had forgotten? You better believe that I wrote that one down for the ages. I found great personal satisfaction in vindicating Peter Fisher and am secretly hoping for a high-five in heaven.

My dad's cousin Bob is also a family historian and in the last few months I have discovered pictures, stories and memories that he has shared. Things that, despite my magpie tendencies, I had never heard or seen before. Definitely treasures. The next three quilts are united not only in color, but also in thought and intent and are based on what I learned. I'll share some of the stories from my dad's family along the way, too.

The inspiration for this first quilt came while my husband and I were sitting in matching rocking chairs on a veranda gazing out at a verdant green forest. We were camping, so unfortunately we were only borrowing the view, the chairs and the veranda. If there is a rocking chair in my future, hopefully there's a pair of them parked outside on the porch somewhere with a great view of something beautifully green. 

The chair thing was what made me start thinking about my grandparents. One of the things that I found in Bob's submissions was a poem that my grandma wrote after Grandpa's death ( I will share it later in the post). In it she describes how hard it was to see his empty chair. It's so easy to want more and more and more. On that quiet spring evening, I thought of them and how grateful I was that the chair next to me was filled with the right guy, and that we could enjoy the simple and free things of life together.

I came home from that weekend and drew a full-scale model of "Love at First Glow" out on butcher paper, then paper-pieced in an improvisational way on top of my templates. I used an analogous color scheme and played with the values to make the triangle/pine tree shapes glow.  I got better at it the more of them I made. I am not ashamed to admit that I finished piecing the quilt, thought "I can do better" and redid ten of the blocks. Even with my remaking, I finished just in time to enter the top into the Pantone Quilt Challenge where it won! Hurray! I got the email today, though, that it was not accepted to the Modern Quilt Guild showcase in Houston. Boo. In the end though, yay or nays aside, this quilt is a winner for me because it says exactly what I meant to say in the way I meant to say it.

Love at First Glow finished at 45" x 53." I used Aurifil invisible thread to do the matchstick quilting and the super thin batting from Quilter's Dream. It is finished with a faced edge.


My grandparents were an unlikely combo. When they met, Grandma was already a teacher and accomplished musician. She was considering a scholarship that she had just received to study at the Julliard Conservatory of Music. Grandpa had just returned from World War I and wanted to be a farmer. After a blind date, she picked him. She taught school, elementary and English (my dad grew up having his grammar corrected daily and enjoyed passing on that bit of his mother to all of us), and taught music lessons in their small farming community. After their children were grown, Grandma decided to go back to school. She received her masters degree at age 61 and was working on her doctorate in folklore (she was in her 80s!) when my grandpa got sick. Grandma was one class away from graduating and had her dissertation completed. She picked him again. "At this point," she said, shrugging, "all they can do is put it on my headstone." Grandma's dissertation was published as a book entitled, Wood Stoves and Woolen Stockings when she was 90 years old. She never did get the doctorate.

After Grandpa died, Grandma wrote this poem:

Waiting
Life is so lonely without you
I look at your empty chair
I sorrow and wait for your coming
To take me with you, over there.

So call for me early at morning
When no one would bid me to stay
Come with your arms outstretched, dear
And together we'll steal away.

--Ann Godfrey Hansen

I tried to make a scrap quilt inspired by this poem in my last post. I couldn't make it say what I wanted it to so I stopped. I had to try again. "Over There" is what I came up with. I constructed it using strings left over from the piecing of the previous quilt. I did not use any foundations. Instead, I used Gwen Marston's method of cutting the desired block size out of paper and using that as a template to cut the strings to the appropriate lengths. There is not much waste and there is no paper to remove after. Win, win. This quilt finished at 24" x 24." I used green Aurifil thread to echo the strings in random patterns and left the text and orange parts unquilted. I am so glad that I had some of that text print in my stash!


Grandpa was the yin to Grandma's yang. He was irrepressible, kind-hearted and open. He told just as many stories as she did, but his were funnier. When he was a young boy, his mother taught him to quilt just to see if he could sit down for a minute. He could do both, barely. How I wish I could have one of those blocks, if they even survived! Grandpa always had a brown flannel quilt on his lap with me on top. I remember him counting his fingers in Danish, pausing dramatically at the fingers with partial amputations from farming accidents to say the Danish word for "half" before continuing. A few years ago I talked to someone who spoke Danish and asked them to count to ten for me. The familiarity of it, even after all these years, brought me to tears. 

I asked my mom how Grandpa died and from the way she described it, it sounded like cancer. She mentioned that near the end, the only thing that tasted good to him was 7Up and it sparked an immediate idea for me. He brought an incredible amount of joy to a little girl. I'm all grown up now and I hope I can give it back in the quilt version.

"7UP" finished at 40" x 40." I constructed it with 3.5" blocks and 2" blocks, which tile together really well and make random arrangements easy to execute. To replicate bubbles, the centers are the same in every block and are the lightest value in the quilt, effectively creating a hole. I love the energy that emerged from the jumble. It makes me feel happy, which is what I was going for. I used matchstick quilting with invisible thread and finished the edges with a facing. I didn't want to put a hard edge around the quilt to contain all of my bubbles. If I ever get this one into a show and run into some difficulty with the name, I think I'll go for "Irrepressible." That one's for you, Grandpa.




Thanks for reading along. I appreciate it!

Linking up to Finish it Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.













61 comments:

  1. Beautiful quilts! I love the stories that inspired them.

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    1. Thank you, Lynne! The background stories really helped to spark some ideas for me this round.

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  2. Hello Jill, so very nice to meet ur grandparents! Well u have done it again,three home runs!!! Great stories, a sweet poem and GORGEOUS quilts! Thanks and congrats on the Pantone win!! No surprise there though!!!

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    1. Thank you! I was really excited about the Pantone challenge. It is one of my favorite times of the year. To be honest, I didn't know if I really liked Greenery when it was announced, but now I am a big fan.

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  3. Very pretty quilts! Loved the stories too

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    1. Thanks, Deb! The stories are definitely part of the process for me.

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  4. Gorgeous quilts with even better stories! <3

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    1. Thank you, Sarah! These stories were fun to tell and they made the quilts fun to make!

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  5. I love the stories and the quilts! They are unique, well designed, and a joy to look at. You are inspiring!

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    1. Thanks Linda! What a nice thing to say! I enjoy making things and trying new things so much. It's nice when the ideas work.

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  6. You are an incredible person. You surely have left your legacy with so many people. Beautiful writing, gorgeous quilts.

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    1. Wow, Andrea! Thank you so much! I hope the stories will always stay with the quilts as the legacy. I guess I think of these blog posts as a giant quilt label.

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  7. Such beautiful quilts and lovely stories to accompany them. What a treasure.
    I really admire the way you are able to make your quilts shimmer....amazing. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Debbie! Finding inspiration and working with color are definitely my favorite parts of the process. The writing is hard for me to do sometimes, but I'm always glad that I did it (after the fact).

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  8. Your blog is always such a wonder to read (and your quilts are so "you!"). Thank you for sharing the stories about your grandparents and your process. What a beautiful pair they are.

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    1. Thanks, Jessica! I do think they are beautiful pair,too. It was a fun walk down memory lane for me to research the stories and choose the picture to share. I chose this picture because I thought it captured their personalities so well and is just how I remembered them...reserved/contained and contented/amused.

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  9. Love at First Glow is so beautiful--the value gradations in the triangles just pull your eye to the centers. The use of stripes in Over There is really fun. And 7UP really bubbles! Thanks for the inspirations.

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    1. Thanks, Sally! I didn't say this in the post, but I looked really hard at pictures of succulents when I was choosing colors for Love at First Glow. Nature has such a wonderful way with color!

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  10. Love your stories and your quilts are gorgeous...I especially favor that string piece..thanks for sharing hugs, Julierose

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    1. Thank you, Julierose! Don't tell the other quilts, but that little string pieced one just be my favorite one, too! :-)

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  11. What a beautiful poem. Thank you so much for sharing it...it touched my soul.

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    1. Thank you, Diannia. I had the chance to read a lot of my grandmother's writing while I was pondering what I should say. She has a distinct style...succinct and direct...that I admire. I think it worked out beautifully in the poem because it helps you feel the truth in what she wrote.

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  12. such a beautiful story and a legacy of love. I love your grandma's poem. I understand how she feels.

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    1. Thank you, Diane! I wish grief and loneliness weren't so easy for us all to understand. I am thankful for her honesty and yours.

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  13. What a lovely story, your grandparents must be smiling down from heaven.

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    1. Thank you, Beth! I hope so. I really, really hope that I didn't make any grammatical errors that would make Grandma cringe.

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  14. What a lovely, beautiful, amazing, sweet, and touching story. I enjoyed every line.

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! Isn't it fun to take a peek behind the curtain sometimes? I am so fascinated by the interesting plot twists we all encounter in our lives.

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  15. Thanks Jill for your wonderful stories. I love them so much and your quilts too. I had your grandma as a teacher in Jr. High. she read to us "Where the red fern grows. It was hard to listen because I wanted to cry all the time and I knew I was too big to cry.

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    1. Thank you, Margie! I am sure you would have some stories about Grandma to tell me! Also? Crying during "Where the Red Fern Grows" is a universal life experience. What a great book.

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  16. I really like your quilts and the stories behind them.

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    1. Thanks, Ben! I really like yours too. So we're even! :-)

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  17. What a lovely story to go along with your beautiful quilts!

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    1. Thanks Kelly! The blog post is always so hard for me to write. I have to talk myself into doing it ever time, but I'm always glad that I did it once it's over.

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  18. Quilts and quilt stories are the best! Thanks for sharing such heartfelt words. I made my husband read your post and now we both are teary-eyed! In Sister's Oregon this week for the Quilt Show to soak up more! Always love to read your blog!

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    1. Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy your time out in Sisters and are inspired by the fantastic surroundings and beautiful quilts. Attending that show is definitely on my bucket list!

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  19. Thank you so much for your touching stories behind your wonderful beauties. Sure you will get a high five also here on earth!

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    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate it!

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  20. The quilts are beautiful as are the stories that inspired them. They kind of brought a tear to my eyes, because they are so touching! Thank you!!!

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    1. Thank you, Claudia! I hope you enjoyed reading the stories.

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  21. I love the quilts and the stories behind them. Just the quilts would be treat enough, but it's so much better to have the inspiration for them as well. You really make me stretch as a quilter, because when I see what's inspired your quilting, I think that maybe I could do something like that, too, rather than just following someone else's pattern yet again. Thank you!!

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    1. Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoy the stories. To me, the stories and quilts go together. I hope you get some great play time in your sewing room soon!

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  22. Oh, my. What a beautiful tribute to your Grandparents. I admire your ability to express yourself through your quilts and writing so much. I couldn't get through your Grandmother's poem in one go - had to get some Kleenex and then clean my glasses.

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    1. Thanks, Colleen! When I stayed home from work with my oldest child, I needed an outlet or I would have lost my mind. Quilting/blogging did that for me.

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  23. I LOVE 7-up. Looking closer, it seems obvious that the smaller squares would have to be 1/2 the size of the larger, or it would never fit together. But, looked at from a bit of distance, it is so deliciously random that one would think each square is a different size. Just wonderful!

    The people we love are never really gone as your own children must know when you correct their grammar. The little traits that make our loved ones special pop up again when you least expect them.

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    1. Thank you! I do love that jumbled, random look and I also just adore the log cabin block. I don't think I'll ever get tired of experimenting with it. I have no idea how the physical traits and personalities get juggled throughout the family tree, but I appreciate it when it happens. My oldest boy has the same sparkling blue eyes and tender, compassionate heart as my grandpa. It's so nice to have him back in that way.

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  24. Stunning creative work! Thank you for sharing your stories, so enjoyed reading them....and that poem, brought tears to my eyes.

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    1. Thank you, Jenny. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed the quilts and stories. I enjoyed making/telling them.

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  25. gorgeous quilts and truly lovely storytelling on your part. Obviously it runs in the family. Your grandmother's poem is beautiful on so many levels. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you! I have enjoyed rereading much of my grandma's published and unpublished stories. I really appreciate her clear and refreshingly honest voice.

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  26. Thank you for sharing these gems with us. This reminds me why we are blogging at all. We are putting the stories out there in such a generous way.

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    1. Thank you, Rachel. I agree. I blog to give my quilts a voice to the generous readers who care to know more. I don't want blogs to lose relevancy and I do believe there's still a valuable place for us in the continuing conversation.

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  27. What a beautiful story. Your grandparents sound like they truly made an impact on your life. The poem is absolutely beautiful, both heartbreaking and joyful at the same time. <3 (The quilts are lovely too :) )

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer! It's always a blessing to be surrounded by good people. I've won the lottery on that front.

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  28. Quilts should always come with stories like these.

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    1. Thank you, Buffy! Reading the back story on quilts is often my favorite part. I feel cheated when I go to shows and the quilt hangs alone.

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  29. Thanks, Jill, and thanks to Abby Glassenberg for including a link here in her newsletter email. Not sure why I don't have you on my follow list already! I've asked the tech committee to share this (somehow!) with the guild so more members can find you.

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  30. I really enjoy the stories you tell, and the quilts are wonderful. Thank you for the lovely morning, reading and enjoying my cuppa!

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  31. How enchanting to view your quilts while also getting to know the thoughts behind them. So well told. Thank you. They (and you) are inspiring.

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  32. Wonderful stories and wonderful quilts!

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