This Civil War is Over!

Farmhouse Style in the Bedroom!

Farmhouse Style in the Bedroom!

I can proudly announce that the Civil War in our house is over.  Done.  Finished.  A Civil War bed quilt that is.

This quilt, the pattern is a Four Square Farmhouse, uses all reproduction fabrics from the Civil War era.  Fabric designers pair with historians to recreate actual fabric patterns or design fabrics to look similar to what was used back then.  The Civil War fabric palettes tend to be darker and the motifs are smaller.  I tend to gravitate toward these reproduction fabrics as my tastes run more antique than modern.  You could create a starkly different quilt using more modern fabrics.

This quilt is also a journey.  Originally, I found this pattern in a now defunct quilt shop in Grand Junction, Colorado in June 2013.  This shop had an incredible array of Civil War era fabrics and I was instantly inspired to make something big — this pattern was perfect.  First, this pattern was something I understood and as a beginner quilter, I wanted to create a project that I easily understood.  Second, the pattern consisted of using fat quarters which allowed me to not only spend money only when able but also to procure fabrics where able.  To me, this quilt is so special because I remember all of the stores in all of the towns where parts of this blanket came from.  With an origin in western Colorado, these fabrics move west to Boise, Idaho continuing on through Oregon with stops in Ontario, Nyssa, Baker City, Halfway, Pendleton, La Pine, Burns, Bend and Portland.  It was a good summer of exploration and my keepsakes from each little town are embedded in the quilt.  The amazing Bishop’s Fan quilt work was done by long arm machine by my incredibly talented friend Heather in Ontario, Oregon.  Now, this quilt that represents the small towns and amazing quilt shops of (mostly) Oregon resides in Durango, Colorado on our bed where I admire it every day.

Oddly named Bishop's Fan.

Oddly named Bishop’s Fan.

This was my first queen sized quilt and definitely posed some challenges.  The blocks were easy to create after a stressful day at work, but the construction of something so large was new to me.   Even though we had vastly more space in our old home than our current home, finding a space to lay out 42 15 inch blocks wasn’t easy.  Also, it wasn’t always easy to see the contrasts between fabrics when laid out;  there are a few blocks that I now wish I would have placed differently.  But this a minor thing for I am immensely happy with what was created by me with the help of a talented quilter.

This Farmhouse quilt makes my day every time I see it.  When I make the bed in the morning, I smile at the quilt even if I’m not exactly thrilled to be upright.  When I snuggle down for bed, I am cozy, warm and more at peace with this quilt atop me.  What a difference a homemade bed covering can make in a day!  My utilitarian bulk Ikea duvet cover from 8 years ago works just fine, but it is nothing special — it certainly doesn’t give me any warm fuzzy feelings.  Warm, yes, warm AND fuzzy not so much.

Making things is always an experience, a journey in and of itself.  For me, this quilt is part road trip, too.  The fabrics transport me to memories of canyons, rivers, mountains and fun times with friends.  What more can you ask for in a blanket?

A Reflection on Imperfection

Looking good corners!

Looking good corners!

As I finished up this month’s block for our Saturday Sampler, I looked at the center of my pinwheels and noticed that they did not match up (nest) perfectly.  Bummer.  Then I looked over at my  corners and realized that all of the points lined up correctly.  Okay, so I have one center that isn’t exact versus four corners (with contrasting fabric) that do.  I’m going to choose to focus on those near perfect corners instead of the slightly off, barely noticeable, center.

Making anything by hand is going to inherently have some sort of imperfection, an obvious stamp that a person and not a machine created it.  When I peruse antique shops, what I appreciate is all of the things made by people that have withstood the test of time.  The quilts made out of patches of clothing with slightly unmatched corners, the dovetails on drawers that have small gaps are all proof that someone took their time to craft something useful.

We as a culture are obsessed with perfection, and being anything less than perfect is seen as a deficiency.   But I can’t be perfect, I never have been and I never want to be.  Perfection seems like a hell of a lot of effort to me, effort that could be better spent on other more productive endeavors.  I don’t expect anything I create to be perfect either.  My seam ripper sits right next to my scissors on my sewing table, and believe me, both are used often.  There is a limit to how much I am willing to take out, how much I want perfection over authenticity.  When I look at all of my work, I see those little gaps as proof that I made them and I’m more proud of what I’ve accomplished, than bothered by a slight imperfection.  The reality is that I’m probably the only person who notices the mistake anyhow.

An Ode to Old Pots

My Great-Grandma Johnson's dutch oven with Hungarian Mushroom Soup

My Great-Grandma Johnson’s dutch oven with Hungarian Mushroom Soup

If there is something more comforting a home-cooked meal,  then surely it is preparing it in heirloom pots.  I’ve been converted to the cult of the cast iron cookware; the superiority is edible. So when given the opportunity to bring home my great-grandmother’s Belgian enameled cast iron pot and pan set, I jumped at the opportunity.  A full set of flame orange cookware that has lasted generations now resides in my home.  I cannot tell you how special it is for me to enjoy food prepared in the same pots my great-grandmother used.  When I see soup bubbling away on the stove in her dutch oven, my heart swells a little bit more.

In our disposable culture, food and items for food preparation are discarded thoughtlessly.  Pots and pans are made to last just a few years instead of a lifetime.  When you peruse antique stores, many of the items still remaining (and coveted) are useful food preparation items such as: cast iron pans, Mason jars, enameled coffee pots and non-mechanized implements (i.e. egg beaters).  Often these items are purchased for display and not re-used, although in all likelihood they still have a great deal of life left in them.  I’m grateful that I can continue the cooking traditions with my own family cookware, making memories and meals with the same equipment used to feed previous generations.  The new secret ingredient in all of my food is the love emanating from the family pot.