Thursday, December 27, 2018

Nearly New Year's Eve

(c) Lyn Fenwick drawing from 2015
There are still a few days until 2018 tumbles to a disquieting close, and the notion of New Year's Resolutions may seem like a relic from the past.  Or, maybe not.  Perhaps it is up to each of us to reflect on what resolutions we each might contribute to make 2019 less disquieting.

I am a collector of quotes--odds and ends from many sources, including this one I found on a cereal box, with which I will begin.  Unfortunately, the cereal box did not provide the author.  "Fame is fleeting, money evaporates, and all we have left is character."  New Year's Eve is a pretty good time for a character check.

Younger readers may not recognize the name of John Wooden, but those of us with some gray in our hair will remember this incredible coach and what was for a while his unbeatable University of California team!  This is what he called His Creed:  "Be true to yourself.  Make each day a masterpiece.  Help others.  Drink deeply from good books.  Make friendship a fine art.  Build a shelter against a rainy day."  You don't have to play basketball to find some good advice in Wooden's creed, and any or all of those commitments would make great resolutions.

Words attributed to Wm Shakespeare on the internet but probably a prank to see if people believed that attribution, nevertheless made their way onto my quote collection because they challenged me to consider how seriously I honor the things that I say matter to me.  I share this not to suggest you adopt the particular things mentioned but rather to challenge you, as it did me, to consider whether you truly honor by your actions the things you say you value.  "You say you love the rain, but you open your umbrella.  You say you love the sun, but you find a shady spot.  You say you love the wind, but you close your windows.  This is why I am afraid, you say you love me too." 

The advice of Ralph Waldo Emerson has inspired many generations, and I found this in my quote file:  "The purpose of life is not to be happy.  It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."   Some would say, I believe, that doing those things will bring you happiness.

Most of us will tolerate hard truths from Mark Twain because he's clever...or perhaps because we think he is poking fun at others rather than at us. This is one of my favorites:  "It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled."

I will close with a movie quote taken from a conversation when a young man, discouraged by what he sees around him, turns to his uncle for advice.  The movie is Secondhand Lions and the actor speaking the quoted lines is the great Robert Duvall.  "Sometimes, the things that may or may not be true are the things that a man needs to believe in the most:  that people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power, mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love, true love, never dies.  You remember that, boy.  Doesn't matter if they are true or not.  A man should believe in those things because those are the things worth believing in."   

Selecting these quotes to share has given me hope for 2019, and I hope they have given you some ideas for your own New Year's Resolutions.  Admit it.  You know you probably will not stick to a diet or adhere to an exercise program for more than a few weeks.  And if you are a smoker, the odds are against really quitting because of a New Year's Resolution.  Maybe, however, something I shared might be worth the effort...  Have a safe and happy New Years Eve!

(You can click to enlarge the drawing.  Please pay particular attention to the words around the clock face.)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Happy Holidays 2018

(c) Lyn Fenwick, "Not a Creature Was Stirring"

Many of my friends read "T'was the Night Before Christmas" aloud to their families on Christmas Eve, a beautiful tradition that dates back to 1823.  When I was deciding what to contribute to the Vernon Filley annual Holiday Festival, I decided it would be fun to do my own illustration for that beloved poem.

Over the decades, many illustrators have created their own versions of this poem, and I love their illustrations.  However, I chose my own setting to depict the lines, "Not a creature was stirring."  One thing I learned is that doing portraits of children with their eyes closed is a challenge, since so much personality comes from a person's eyes, especially children.

Like so many things, it seems, there is a controversy behind this poem.  The author is generally believed to be Clement Clarke Moore, a writer and Professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, as well as Divinity and Biblical Learning.  It is believed that he wrote the poem for his children, and a friend submitted it to the Troy, New York Sentinel, in which newspaper it was published anonymously on December 23, 1823.  Moore was reluctant to claim authorship, believing it was inconsistent with his scholarly reputation, but several sources had already identified him as the author when he finally included it in an anthology of his work in 1844.

The controversy about authorship did not come from the other alleged author, but rather from that man's family.  Major Henry Livingston, Jr., a New Yorker of Dutch and Scottish ancestry, and a remote relative of Moore's wife, is believed by his family and at least one document dealer, to be the true author, although Major Livingston never made that claim during his life.  Surely a professor of the Bible would not have falsely claimed authorship, would he?  Perhaps the verse had an oral history that Moore refined, making it his own.  After all these years, who knows?

I added the "Elf on the Shelf" to my pastel, a more modern story, which dates to the publication in 2005 of a book by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell, illustrated by Coe Steinwart.  The plot describes an elf that gets his magic when a child names and loves him, and with that magic he is able to fly to the North Pole during the night to advise Santa about whether his child has been good or bad that day.  He returns before the family awakens and hides in a new spot.  Frankly, it seems to me a little ungrateful that the Elf who gets his magic from the child who loves him becomes a spy, don't you think?

Of course, children without an Elf on the Shelf know from the familiar song that they "better watch out, they better not pout" because Santa already "knows if you've been good or bad, so be good for goodness sake."  Atlantic columnist Kate Tuttle believes that the Elf teaches a bad lesson to children, teaching them "that good behavior equals gifts."  Another writer, Professor Laura Pinto, suggests the toy conditions the next generation to be more accepting of government surveillance, having learned as a child to accept being monitored by the Elf.   Who knew holiday poems and toys could be so controversial?!

All that I know for sure is that my mother had felt elves that she used to decorate our home in the 1960s, well before the publication of the elf on the shelf.  I don't believe, however, that Mother's elves were spies!  What I do believe is that families create their own stories and traditions, and I hope your holidays are filled with joy.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Heirloom quilts from Blog Readers

Mother's Wool Throw
Although my mother was a wonderful seamstress and the 4-H sewing leader when I was young, she was not a quilter.  However, she did make me a wool throw with square pieces sewn together with crochet stitches.  Several of the blocks are embroidered or appliqued with symbols of my young experiences.  Unfortunately, over the years moths got into the wool.  I have sealed it well and treated it to avoid the moths escaping to work on other things, but I can't bring myself to destroy her gift to me.

Drunkard's Path Pattern
The remainder of this blog is a real treat, with photographs and stories received from readers.  Jim Clopton asked, "What do you do with empty walls in a hallway?" and provided the answer with a quilt pattern called Drunkard's Path.  I guess Jim assumed that even a drunk could find his way down a hall!  

Some of the quilts shared in photographs and stories are imperfect, with stains and tears and fading, but they remain precious heirlooms from the grandmothers and great-grandmothers who made them.  Others were lovingly cared for and were passed to loved ones in like-new condition.  Janis Moore wrote to me:  "My mother made several beautiful quilts.  She gave each of my kids one of her quilts for a wedding gift."  Janis' mother was my Sunday School Teacher when I was a little girl, and she was a lovely lady.

Connie Watts' Grandmother's
Connie Watts wrote that she has several of her great grandmother's quilts, describing--"hand embroidered, bonnet girl (which I call Sunbonnet Sue), and a baby quilt she left in my hope chest when I was a little girl.  Each child and grandchild had three quilts that she made special.  The most special thing about a quilt is the weight and the feel of the fabric.  ...Grandmother used mainly flower sacks."  I had to share the picture with the amazing points.  We quilters know how difficult it is to get those sharp points!  

Rodney Smith shared:  "My grandmother and great aunts were quilt makers; however, my mother was also a dressmaker.  She even made a cashmere sport coat for me when I was in college."  I made my husband a tuxedo long ago that he wore to several important corporate events.  What I remember most about making that tuxedo was the eye strain of sewing on black!

Marcy Johnson's Grandma's
How pleased I was to receive a picture and note from Marcy Johnson, who wrote, "My mother's family was from Rossville [IL] and Manns Chapel is my favorite place on earth, next to my home."  She added, "Loving your journey!" referring to my manuscript about Isaac Werner, who was a druggist in Rossville in the 1870s.  Her picture is of a quilt for her Grandparents' 50th Anniversary, with signature blocks from friends and family.

Terry Navarro wrote:  "My mom was a wonderful seamstress--made my wedding dress, flower girl and maid of honor.  She could do anything.  Back in the day, the neighbor ladies would get together and tack a quilt-Grandma, LaLa, Grandma Rojas, Mrs Rosa.  It sure was fun to watch." 
Her comments led to several other comments from others about the dresses their mothers made for them when they were girls--including Maxine Howard and Marsha Thompson.  Those were the days when patterns were less than a dollar and fabric could be found in many stores, I'll bet!  Today, most fabric is to be found in quilt shops.

My mother-in-law, with a heart as generous as could be, made many coverlets for strangers.  She didn't piece the quilts, but she would buy the fabric panels with appealing scenes for children to fill with batting to tie as miniature comforters.  If she read in the newspaper about a sick or injured child, or a family that had lost everything in a house fire, she would find their address somehow (before internet searches) and send one of her little quilts for the children.  In so many ways, quilts are special, and the love that goes into the making is somehow passed along to the recipient--even for generations.

Thank you to everyone who shared stories and pictures, of which I received more than I had room to share but loved all of them.  I'll close with a comment sent by Phyllis McCart in response to last week's post about the sewing machines on which some of the pictured quilts may have been made.  Phyllis wrote:  "These vintage sewing machines are making a comeback!  I am a quilter (33 years) and these machines are being used.  The are sturdy, all metal parts.  Parts are available for repairs and replacements.  Quilters are loving them."  Mary Vandenburg added, "My mother made all my dresses on a sewing machine like this one (referring to last week's blog).  Oh, how I wish I still had it, even though I don't sew!"

As Alice McMillan Lockridge said in her note, these quilts are "a reminder of the life our foremothers lived.  They made work into art and their machines were beautiful too."

(You may click on the images to enlarge them, and you may scroll down to read the earlier blogs about quilts and the beautiful vintage machines.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Sewing Machines from the Past

Advertisement from County Capital
In the Stafford County (Kansas) Museum permanent Quilt Exhibit, there are both hand sewn and machine sewn quilts, and part of the collection is a display of sewing machines. I was thrilled when I discovered a New Home machine--actually, two of them--in the exhibit!

From Isaac's journal, I know that he borrowed a sewing machine from friends to do some sewing for himself, but I do not know specifically what sewing he did.  Nor do I know what brand of machine he borrowed.  However, I do know from the County Capital newspaper ad shown at left that Gray & Co. in St. John sold New Home machines.

I had not realized from the newspaper advertisement what beautiful machines these were, but the ad is detailed enough to identify it as being the same model as the two in the exhibit.  They are lovely, with the beautiful trim on the wooden drawers, the name "New Home" in the metalwork of the pedal and both sides, and the intricate painting of the machine itself.

New Home Sewing Machine

There is also a Singer machine in the collection, ornamented with particularly beautiful and colorful painted designs.  

Because of the style and popular light wood of the 1950s and 1960s, another machine in the exhibit appears to me to come from the mid-1900s.  I am sure it was regarded as very modern and tasteful in its time, but the ornate older machines seemed to me to be the 'stars of the show' in the exhibit!

It is a wonderful collection to honor the many women through the years who salvaged scraps of fabric to transform into beautiful quilts, or bought fabrics to make a specific design as a family heirloom, some sewing their quilts by hand and others using machines like the ones on exhibit.  Many of the quilts in the collection were made by women who gathered with friends to quilt as a fundraising effort, raising money for various causes and beautifying the homes of whoever was fortunate enough to go home with the quilt.  The exhibit is worth the visit!

Remember, you can click on the images to enlarge.

(If you missed the 2 blogs preceding this week's blog, you may want to scroll down to enjoy the pictures of the beautiful quilts and the interesting stories about the quilts' creations.  Next week I will post the final blog in this quilting series, so if you have a story to share or a picture of an heirloom  family quilt be sure to send it to me soon.)