Friday, May 31, 2013

May is busting out in hexies!

Gladys Guyton Stump's Flower Garden Quilt
pieced in the 1960s.
May always seemed the month of anticipation and it lasted forever. When I was a student (and even as an adult), May signified the end of school. I loved learning and for the most part the school experience; but freedom called so loudy on the first day of May that I could not hear anything else.

Each day was one day closer to an idyll time of sunshine, swimming at the stone quarry with all of my friends and classmates and neighbors. The 'old people' of 30 or 40 congregated close to the snack shack and restrooms. Those with little kids staked out the shallow end. But us teens took over the 25-foot deep lake where we dove and laughed and kissed and swam and climbed out to lay on the raft until the horse flies bombarded us. Then we'd head to the trampoline and do some flips and cannonballs.

Upon returning home Mom would have chores and food, not necessarily in that order. Fresh fruit and veggies from our trees and vines and garden. Nothing like standing in the garden munching on a tomato just picked from the plant.

And summer meant sewing -- 4-H projects and getting together with females who shared my love of the stitch and the fabric. In my secure little world I moved freely and joyfully and with purpose.

Memorial Day was about reunion. I equate it to what I expect heaven to be. People who had moved away, former classmates who had graduated and gone on to college or marriage -- they all returned and even those who remained congregated along the parade route. Greetings and hugs and oohs and aaahs over new babies or kids who were sprouting like weeds. There were some faces missing -- those who couldn't make it back and those who had moved on to their community in the hear after.... We listened to the Barbershop chorus and quartet sing patriotic songs. Fred Sumney in black top hat and his own homegrown beard would give the Gettysburg Address by the Civil War monument in the center of town. It was a perfect moment. The fire department had their trucks all shined and leading the parade, right behind the grand marshal's car. One year Mom was grand marshall -- for more than 50 years she was the dispatcher for the volunteer fire department.

The parade route ended at the local cemetery and we would honor those who sacrificed for us. Then we'd return, pick up our barbecued chicken dinners from the fire department and went to Mom's house to chow down. Our little family reunion that grew more raucous with each new grandson.

I think of these things, more so this year perhaps, because I've recently been delving into Mom's favorite quilting shape and quilt -- the hexagon and the flower garden quilt. Receiving a copy of Peggy Rhodes and Julia Wood's "Quick and Easy Hexie Quilts" (published by AQS), started my march down memory lane. Seeing their cute patterns of long stemmed flowers or rail fence backgrounds reminded me that I had the pieces and unfinished body of a flower garden quilt that Mom started when I was still in high school and living at home. When confronted with how to finish the edges (straight or scalloped) and a shortage of yellow centers, she put it away to 'finish later.'

Her method of piecing hexies was by hand, right sides together and seaming two together. She did an excellent job and I'm hoping to finish what she started.

Until seeing her quilt, she'd felt far away. It has been several years since we were together. Since she died, I've rather let myself believe that we were only separated by distance, not by death, of course the truth was always at hand. But seeing the quilt, Mom was alive and well and sitting in her favorite chair with the quilt covering her lap as she concentrated on each stitch. I felt younger just looking at the quilt and remembering that time.... And then as I looked at the brightly pieced flowers I began seeing my life flash before me. The 4-H projects in the green print, my favorite culottes outfit in the pink print, her house dresses and a blouse I made for her. I am so blessed with this unfinished quilt top. I relish the beauty, the fact that each piece of fabric has been touched and caressed by the hands that soothed and cared for me.
Our Theo photo bombing my effort to show you my
hexies and the book with the innovative technique.
I want to finish her project and I want to do it right, so I did some research on sewing a quilt using hexagons (Here's a tutorial) One popular technique involves foundation piecing. Another is cutting hexies from squares. One that seems intriguing is reversible hexies.

Another is innovative and seems more like origami than quilting. And instead of basting all around the piece, you just tack down each side with one stitch. It begins with circles and folds them into hexagons and whipstitch the individual hexies together. This is the technique developed by Peggy and Julia in their 'Quick and Easy Hexie Quilts' book. I don't feel like I should give you step by step for this technique, since it is in the book and they really would like to sell some books....

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process and made a small flower for my kitchen table. I may add to it as I didn't finish the back. The technique is so perfect that the back looks almost as good as the front. Maybe more interesting with its multiple folds. I have included a link here for a pillow top that would be perfect using the Quick and Easy folded method, although the link includes a tutorial (not the greatest) for foundation piecing. Here's a link to a host of inspiring projects and use of hexies that had me drooling on the keyboard!
My little folded hexie flower. I added another row
alternating the light and the red fabrics. Even
my husband likes it!
But this would not be the technique Mom used and I couldn't use it with her quilt. So next I will take her cardboard template and try cutting each hexagon -- one at a time -- and then stitching them together.

May is giving way to June. And here in Florida, we will become more house bound or more addicted to air conditioning as the humidity and temperatures rise to a smothering height. The perfect quilting environment -- as long as the AC stays on!

Happy Hexies and hope you enjoy this summer and sewing!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Post Mother's Day Reminisce

Nick's First Grade photo
Our youngest son, Nick, all grown up, with his lovely wife Casandra
on his graduation from college
Mother's Day never quite lives up to expectations placed upon it by advertisers and those hawking their wares and trying to make consumers think that motherhood has anything to do with diamonds, flowers, chocolates or spa days.

I'm in that no-man's land where my own mother has died and my sons are grown men leading lives a continent away from their old Mom. While making the morning coffee, I looked out of the window and across the green yard of our Florida home. Now, our boys were raised up North, and yet, I could see my babies clinging to our hands and raising their feet off of the ground to keep the grass from tickling their bare feet. The trust that their dad and I would hold them safe. Hold them while they lifted off from this earth....

My big he-men sons will always be my sweet babies. One who couldn't say 'feet' changed our vocabulary forever and those appendages at the ends of our legs will forever be 'peet.' Thank you Nick.

Or my darling first born who has a prodigious vocabulary (at an early age) because his chattery mother talked to him nonstop throughout the day. He helped me pass words and love of them to his brother.

He was with me when I cooked. His carrier sat on the counter beside me while I rolled out dough or stirred up casseroles and all of the time I explained what I was doing and showed him utensils and named them and gave him big wooden spoons to wave around. And when bigger he learned to take that spoon and bang on the pots and pans.

Everywhere I looked I could see them bringing me handsful of dandelions that Grandpa helped them pick in his retirement goal of eradicating his yard of those darn yellow flowers. The grins, the arms
Dave (our first born) with his little cousin Lizzie

reaching for me. The hugs. The slobbery kisses. The heads resting on my shoulder as the body went limp in sleep, trusting me totally to hold and protect. The why stage. The potty training. The 'eating bushes' introduction to broccoli and Bill Cosby. Later listening to the Disney albums of their blockbuster musicals such as Robin Hood. And the boys insisting that they must listen to the Hobbit album during lunch because it was about food.

"Blunt the knives, bend the forks
Smash the bottles and burn the corks
Chip the glasses and crack the plates
That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!"

But they particularly liked the song that included bones and blistering skin and goblins....

Dave and his lovely wife Shell
We sat together and read. In fact the first photo of our newborn firstborn involved reading a book to him. Throughout the years we learned about Dooley and the Snortsnoot and The Giant Jam Sandwich, and every dinosaur, Curious George, and Dr. Suess book ever written. Trips to the library were a treat and seeing them curled up in the most uncomfortable ways with a book propped in front of them....

Their Easter photos with cropped pants and slicked back hair and sweet smiles spreading across faces under which big bow ties bobbed.

I miss my babies, I miss my boys, but their memories are always right here with me, tucked safely in my heart. And I am so very proud of the men they have become. Genuine original strong determined, funny and kind, thoughtful and caring, unselfish and driven by conscience rather than gold. I am so blessed. So very blessed. And thankful that they forgave me for those Easter outfits that I made for them so many years ago. (Sorry, I need to dig out those Easter photos. Maybe another post....)